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beyond the pink

male breast cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, about 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 460 men will die from the disease.

Breast cancer is much less common in men than women (the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer as a man is one in 1,000), but men do have breast tissue that is prone to developing cancer. Because of a lack of awareness, men are often diagnosed at later stages of breast cancer, making the disease even deadlier for men.

“I told my coworkers that I had chest cancer, not breast cancer. I was embarrassed,” patient Michael Singer revealed. In 2010, Singer was diagnosed with breast cancer – a disease he was all too familiar with when his sister lost her battle with breast cancer in 2008. “For me, the challenge with male breast cancer is the lack of awareness and the lack of research done specifically for men.”

After his diagnosis, Singer searched for information related to male breast cancer and was surprised to find nothing. Although rare, few people realize that men are susceptible, but there is a huge lack of awareness and resources for this kind of cancer. Only a week after Singer’s initial diagnosis, he underwent a mastectomy where he had his left breast removed. To this day, Singer is cancer-free but takes a hormone therapy drug on a daily basis.

In his work for advocacy, Singer participates in speaking engagements and television interviews, and works alongside his wife, Patty, to lobby for better insurance coverage and more clinical drug trials for men with breast cancer. “A lot of these breast cancer medications are only covered for women – leaving male breast cancer patients in a perilous position. This is all because of the stigma that only women can develop the disease,” Singer revealed. “Men aren’t included in clinical trials, and we’re often not covered for breast cancer drugs. This is a huge problem for male diagnoses.”

Singer has campaigned on Capitol Hill numerous times, and with the help of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the third week of October is now designated as Male Breast Cancer Week in the state of New York. On top of all his advocacy efforts, Singer personally counsels men from all over the world and directs them to resources such as The Male Breast Cancer Coalition for support and guidance.

Singer urges all men with breast cancer to be their own best advocates, to ask questions, and to disavow the shame and embarrassment that he initially felt. “Be the voice of men who are no longer with us and the voice of men who are embarrassed to speak up.”