Should You Avoid Fish Oil While Getting Chemotherapy?

Anyone who ever picks up a book on healthy diet or listens to a talk show featuring one of the more well-known nutritionists knows that fish oil is a good thing. It isn’t pleasant to take, but we are advised to push past that because it has so many health benefits. But is that true across the board? What about the questions that have been raised about interference with chemotherapy treatment? 

Without a doubt, fish oil is an excellent source for omega-3 fatty acids and is one of those supplements that has gotten a lot of attention here. Omega-3 is vital for cells to properly function but is not produced by the body, which means that it must be provided by diet or through supplements.

Cardiovascular health issues have been prime motivators in researching omega-3 fatty acids. There has been a lot of interest in the fact that heart disease in Japanese men is less than a third of what it is for men in the U.S. Research seems to indicate that it has a lot to do with the amount of fish eaten by Japanese as compared to Americans. Beyond heart issues, the list of health benefits attributed to fish oil is long. Really long. As with most supplements, the entries will vary depending upon whose list it is, but some of less controversial of those are:

  • Support healthy cholesterol
  • Maintain normal triglyceride levels
  • Maintain already normal blood pressure
  • Promote joint health
  • Assist with weight management
  • Promote eye health
  • Support a healthy respiratory system
  • Enhance mental focus
  • Maintain muscle mass in older adults
  • Strengthen the immune system

Those benefits are hard to argue with. Plus, when someone is diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things that everyone around them says is that they should start eating a healthier diet and take supplements to help the body remain strong during treatment. A supplement that has proven to help with the issues on this list would, understandably, jump to the top. Results from recent research, however, has found that this particular supplement may do more harm than good to cancer patients.

Experimenting with mice, researchers have observed that the fatty acid found in fish oil, as well as some types of fish, can make cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy. According to Christine Metz, director of the Laboratory of Medicinal Biochemistry at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., “Our research shows that when you affect the membrane of cancer cells by altering the fats in the outer covering of the cell, you can make the membrane stiffer or more fluid. These fats can make it more difficult for chemotherapy to enter the cell or make the cell better at pushing the chemotherapy out of the cell.”

This is not definitive proof that fish oil interferes with chemotherapy in humans. There are even studies that claim exactly the opposite. It is hard to prove just how fish oil does affect chemotherapy in humans, because testing would require giving someone with cancer a substance that could interfere with treatment. Many healthcare professionals, however, advise their cancer patients to discontinue use of fish oil the day before, the day of and the day after their chemotherapy treatment.

To learn more about fish oil, watch the following video:

Helping Kids Understand Breast Cancer Diagnosis

There is nothing easy about the day that you are sitting in your doctor’s office or get the call on the phone and learn that you have breast cancer. No matter how many donations you have made, events you have attended to raise awareness or the number of pink tee-shirts in your closet, actually hearing the words “you have cancer” can be an overwhelming shock. For parents, that reaction is even more extreme. Personal fear and panic quickly turn to how this is going to affect their children.

How children respond to most things depends a lot upon their age and level of understanding. For some parents, there is the temptation to shield especially young children from those things they believe will be upsetting or more than they should have to deal with. While well-intentioned, this is nearly always a mistake. Kids pick up on way more than most parents realize. Something as serious as breast cancer is impossible to hide. If children are left out about what is actually going on, they will come up with some explanation on their own, which will often be far worse than the truth.

Understanding Brings Reassurance

Your children get their cues from you. During difficult times you are going to react to everyone and everything around you differently. Help them cope with these changes by bringing them into the conversation, so that they understand why this is happening. The depth of explanation and the language you use will change as appropriate but these are some suggestions that many have found helpful:    

  • Talk to them. Find out what they know about breast cancer and correct anything that is not accurate. Describe the process and what to expect from your treatment. Let them know that there may be difficult days for you, physically and emotionally. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about what they are feeling.
  • Cancer is not contagious. It’s amazing sometimes to learn what children have been thinking but too afraid to admit. Make sure that they know that no one else, including them, can catch cancer and that it’s still safe to touch and hug.
  • Not their fault. Children tend to be pretty self-centered and experience the world as revolving around them. Just like with divorce, without ever telling anyone, children often assume the burden of responsibility when something bad happens. Somehow, it must be their fault. It is important to be proactive in reassuring them that this is not true, because they may not ever express it on their own.
  • Be open with the “C” word. Diffuse a lot of the fear and anxiety by talking openly and matter-of-factly about cancer. If they see that this is something you are facing openly and with confidence, then they will take those cues and run with them. Talk to them about how they might share what is happening with their friends. Have conversations with teachers and other parents so that your children can feel comfortable talking to them, also.
  • Remind them they are loved. Battling breast cancer requires a lot of time, effort and focus. Sometimes there won’t be a lot left over for the kind of interactions with your children as before your diagnosis. Children may see this as being forgotten or even neglected. But, children are also amazingly resilient. Simply explaining that you still love them and that other family members will help make sure that their needs are taken care of will go a long way to making them feel safe.

Breast cancer is never a good thing, but even the darkest clouds can have that proverbial silver lining. Going through an experience like this can actually bring parents and children closer together and be an invaluable teaching opportunity about priorities and the strength of family.

How to Manage the Fatigue of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Devastated. Crushed. Shocked. These are just the beginning of a long list of emotions felt by those who have just learned that the cancer they thought they had beaten is not only back but that it has metastasized, meaning it has spread to a different organ in the body. Once this happens, the classification changes to stage IV and treatment becomes geared toward life extension rather than cure.

Metastatic breast cancer affects the entire body. When the cells migrate away from the point of origin, chances are they go to multiple locations and it will just be a matter of time before they are discovered. Symptoms for breast cancer that has metastasized vary depending on the location. Some of those manifest as:

  • In the bones, there may be pain, frequent fractures, constipation, fatigue or mental fogginess as a result of high calcium levels
  • In the lungs, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain and extreme fatigue
  • In the liver, nausea, extreme fatigue, swelling in the stomach, feet and hands due to fluid collection, yellowing or itchy skin and fatigue
  • In the brain or spinal cord, pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement and seizures.

Whether specifically listed or not, fatigue becomes a constant condition regardless of the location of metastatic breast cancer and is something that significantly affects quality of life. Ask someone with cancer how they feel and “disfigured” will almost always be part of their response. Cancer fatigue, though, is different from regular tiredness because, not only is it more severe and lasts longer, it is usually not relieved by sleep or rest. The level of fatigue is generally disproportionate to the amount of activity or exertion. Perhaps most significant of all, it is persistent and never seems to go away.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Some studies have reported that fatigue in cancer patients has a greater negative impact on quality of life than all other symptoms, including nausea, pain and depression.”

Chronic fatigue affects all areas of an individual’s life as well as having a negative impact on family and friends. It is an important issue for anyone dealing with cancer in any of its stages but it is critical for someone with metastatic, stage IV, cancer. In the past, this diagnosis was treated mainly by keeping the patient comfortable. Today, however, even though there is not cure, it can be controlled for increasingly longer lengths of time. For this to include a decent quality of life, the related fatigue must be addressed.

The first place to start is to talk to your doctor. There may be drugs or medications that he can recommended to help alleviate some of the fatigue. That said, recent research has found that counseling and healthy lifestyle practices, including exercise and better dietary choices, are more effective in managing fatigue than drugs.

Some more specific tips are:

  • Manage your energy by planning and moderating activity.
  • Include extra calories if losing weight and make sure to get sufficient protein, 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams for men.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine. If vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, extra fluids are essential.
  • Consider vitamin supplements but in addition to, not in place of, a healthy diet.
  • Regular, moderate exercise can go a long way in relieving anxiety and depression, as well as fatigue.
  • Mange stress by meditating, reading, listening to music, joining a support group or whatever brings relaxation.

If nothing seems to help, consult with your doctor to see if there might be an underlying medical condition that you are unaware of. Chronic fatigue can be overwhelming. Be sure to reach out to your medical team and your personal support system.

If you would like to learn more about this subject, please watch the following video:

Why is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month?       

For more than 30 years now, the month of October has seen a huge push to raise awareness about breast cancer. Created in 1985 through a joint effort between the American Academy of Family Physicians, Cancer Care, Inc. and the British chemical company, Imperial Chemical Industries, now AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has brought together healthcare workers, industry sponsors and activists spurred on by personal experiences with the cancer that affects 1 out of every 8 women in the U.S. sometime during her lifetime.

Failing, so far, in all attempts to find a way to prevent this pervasive and potentially deadly disease, focus was shifted to building awareness about the importance of early detection. Healthcare professionals believe that the number one best way to prevent and reduce deaths from breast cancer lies in finding it as early as possible and being able to take advantage of current state-of-the-art treatments. The earlier the detection, while still small and contained, the better the odds for successful treatment. To do that, awareness programs stress the importance of regular screening tests.

Predictions, for women in the U.S. during the calendar year, are for roughly 250,00 to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, which is where the cancer spreads to surrounding breast tissues. Of those, some 40,000 are expected to die during that same period. The good news is that death rates have been decreasing since 1989, just a few years after the first Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In addition to advances in quality and effectiveness of treatment, this trend has been attributed to increased awareness resulting in earlier detection through screening.

Women have been advised to do self-exams and have regular check-ups for any indication of breast cancer for years. The difference that screening has made is due to its ability to find and diagnose a disease before symptoms appear. Once a tumor is large enough to feel, it has had a chance to not only grow but also spread. Breast cancer detected through a screening is more likely to be much smaller and still confined to the point of origin. When breast cancer is found in its earliest stages, a woman has a better than 90% chance of long-term survival.

Pink Is Not Everyone’s Favorite Color

When the calendar flips from September to October, everything goes pink. The lights on the lawn bathe the White House with a rosy glow. Huge pink ribbons appear on everything from 747s and beer trucks to NFL helmets. Some police departments have even gone so far as to using pink handcuffs during October.

Not everyone, however, believes this is such a good thing. Heightened awareness has been beneficial, as evidenced by the lowering of the death rate from breast cancer. No one argues with that. What some do have issue with, though, is that the October campaign has become more of a marketing opportunity for companies. Plus, the millions of dollars collected could, perhaps, be better spent. They believe that it is time to shift the goal from awareness to action and funnel those dollars into research for preventing breast cancer and finding a cure for it and the many other types of cancer that affect so many.   

What are the Types of Breast Cancer?

Discovering a suspicious lump in your breast or learning that there may be an issue during a routine physical check-up is always frightening. Then, hearing that you do, indeed, have breast cancer is the nightmare scenario played out in the minds of women everywhere. Even though early detection and improved treatment protocols like learning what chemicals are cancer causing have greatly improved survival rates, learning that you have cancer is always terrifying. That is closely followed by a feeling of confusion and being overwhelmed by decisions that will need to be made.

Next to having confidence in your medical team and a strong support system, perhaps the best thing that can be done to give you back a sense of being in control is to learn as much as possible about your condition. A good place to start is with the cancer itself. Breast cancer is a complex disease that manifests in different ways. It can start in different areas of the breast, including the ducts, lobules or tissue in between, and it may initially be found in more than one location.

The first things your doctor will want to determine is the type of tissue where the tumor is located and whether it has spread beyond the breast. Breast cancer that has not spread is referred to as “in situ”, and those that have spread into surrounding areas are “invasive” or “infiltrating”. These factors play a role in identifying the type of cancer and the options for treatment.

The majority of breast cancers are carcinomas, which means that they start in the epithelial cells that line organs and tissues. Some are a specialized form of carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, that originate in the milk ducts or lobules (milk-producing glands) in the breast. Another type, sarcomas, are found in cells of the muscles, fat and connective tissues.

Types of breast cancer can be further differentiated according to whether they are non-invasive, invasive, recurrent and metastatic (spread from one organ to another), as well as characteristic or molecular subtypes. Some of these are:

  • Ductal Carcinoma in Situ – the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer
  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (infiltrating ductal carcinoma) – roughly 80% of all breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas
  • Tubular Carcinoma of the Breast – subtype of invasive ductal carcinoma but less aggressive and responds well to treatment
  • Medullary Carcinoma of the Breast – rare subtype of invasive ductal carcinoma, slow growing
  • Mucinous Carcinoma of the Breast – rare, less aggressive subtype of invasive ductal carcinoma that tends to affect women after menopause
  • Papillary Carcinoma of the Breast – also affects women after menopause but has more defined borders than mucinous carcinoma
  • Cribriform Carcinoma of the Breast – cells are found in the connective tissues of the breast in nest-like formations
  • Invasive Lobular Carcinoma – second most common type of breast cancer after invasive ductal carcinoma and tends to occur later in life
  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer – rare and very aggressive, presents a reddening and swelling of the breast instead of a distinct lump
  • Paget’s Disease of the Nipple – rare cancer in which cells collect in or around the nipple, often a sign that cancer is also present elsewhere in the breast
  • Phyllodes Tumors of the Breast – rare tumor cells that grow in a leaf-like pattern, some benign, some malignant and some borderline
  • Recurrent Breast Cancer – cancer that has returned to the same area following a period of time when none could be detected, considered advanced stage
  • Metastatic Breast Cancer – breast cancer that has migrated to another part or parts of the body, considered stage IV, the most serious
  • Male Breast Cancer – rare, less than 1% of total breast cancers, higher mortality rate due to later detection

The more you know about breast cancer, the better you will be able to be an active and informed participant in your treatment and recovery. If you don’t know, ask questions!

If you would like to learn more, please check out the following video!

Is Breast Reconstruction Surgery Safe for Breast Cancer Survivors? 

All types of cancers are accompanied by a nearly overwhelming list of stressors, and this may be even more true with breast cancer. Once the cancer itself has been faced and treated, there are additional emotionally charged issues to face. If one or both breasts have been removed, there is likely to be concern about altered appearance and questions about sexuality. This can also be true with removal of a lump that has left the breast misshapen. Since breast cancer can frequently strike younger women, there may be concern about having a family and how the cancer and treatment will affect that. One of the side effects of chemotherapy, for some women, is early menopause, which brings with it a whole other stress-filled list.

Breast cancer is a very personal disease and so are the decisions about what to do following treatment. Whether treatment included a double mastectomy or partial removal of tissue in only one breast, there is the question of reconstruction and all of the options available. One issue that should not be of concern is whether breast reconstruction surgery is safe for breast cancer survivors. Studies have shown that reconstruction does not cause breast cancer to come back. Plus, if the cancer does come back for another reason, reconstruction will not impede detection or cause problems with chemotherapy, radiation or other treatment.

Worry about the safety of reconstruction following cancer surgery aside, there are decisions to make. The first will be whether to have reconstruction surgery or not. Those who choose an alternate route will have the option of either using some form of breast form or prosthesis or simply “going flat”. With reconstruction surgery there may be the option to have the process started during the procedure to remove the breast or cancerous tissue, so it is important to consult with your surgeon well in advance.

Once the decision to have reconstruction is made, there will be many things to consider in order to decide what type will be best for you and your lifestyle. Some of the factors to consider when choosing between options include:

  • Immediate or delayed reconstruction
  • Implant or autologous (flap) reconstruction, which takes tissue from another area of the body to create a breast form
  • Overall health
  • Issues that might affect healing, such as smoking
  • Location of the cancer
  • Breast size
  • Extent of cancer surgery
  • Chemotherapy, radiation and other treatment programs and what stage they are in
  • The amount of tissue available for autologous reconstruction
  • Reconstructive surgery on one or both breasts
  • Importance of being able to match the look of the other breast
  • Cost and insurance coverage, especially if having surgery for unaffected breast
  • Recovery time
  • Effects on other parts of your body if tissue from there is used

Your surgeon will take these and other factors into consideration, explaining the potential benefits, risks and expectations, to help you make the choices that are best for you. These are very personal and individual decisions, and it will be important to take the time necessary to find the right options that work for you and your lifestyle.

Should People with Cancer Avoid Antioxidants?

Does it sometimes seem like the more we learn the less we know? That certainly appears to be the case when we look at the effects of antioxidants on cancer. For years, we have been hearing about the health-enhancing benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and one of the main rationales for that is because they contain antioxidants. These powerful substances protect our cells from unstable molecules known as free radicals, which are linked to cancer.

Free radicals have incomplete electron shells which are usually the result of exposure to something in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the medicines we take and the water we drink. Some of the more common contributors are fried foods, alcohol, tobacco smoke, pesticides and air pollutants. In the body, this process occurs most often when oxygen molecules become “radicalized” and try to steal electrons from other molecules which can lead to DNA damage. Over time, unless checked, this can result in cancer. As part of the normal processes that take place within the cells, the bodies antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent them from reaching the level sufficient to create cancerous cells.

This is all good, right? Antioxidants were hailed as super heroes by the health gurus, and supplement makers rushed to fill the gap for those who do not regularly consume the recommended antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables. Even for those who didn’t naturally gravitate toward kale and spinach could appreciate something as vicious as cancer being held at bay by carrots and mangos.

So, the answer to “Should people with cancer avoid antioxidants?” should be an easy “no”, right? When it comes to cancer and, actually, with most things that have to do with disease and the human body, the answers are seldom easy and rarely clear-cut. Yes, the antioxidant properties found in beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, vitamins C, E, and A can be very effective in counteracting free radical damage to the body’s DNA and, as a direct result, reduce the incidence of cancer. However, there have been studies over the past several decades that have indicated that antioxidants can actually accelerate cancer progression by short-circuiting one of the body’s own immune system responses to cells that have become malignant.

Dr. Martin Bergo, senior author of a Swedish study conducted on the effects of antioxidants on cancer tumors in mice wrote, “We found that antioxidants caused a threefold increase in the number of tumors, and caused tumors to become more aggressive. Antioxidants caused the mice to die twice as fast, and the effect was dose-dependent. If we gave a small dose, tumors grew a little. If we gave a high dose, tumors grew a lot.”

While supplementing the antioxidants that naturally occur in the body can help prevent cancer, the current research seems to indicate that the body’s immune system already has an intricate system in place to deal with precancerous cells. Flooding it with antioxidants when cancerous cells are already present can suppress the signals necessary to turn that system on which, in turn, allows these damaged cells to multiply.

Because of their wide-ranging health benefits, no one is recommending that we stop eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. They may very well prevent cancerous cells from ever taking hold. If, however, you have been diagnosed with cancer or are especially vulnerable, it would be a good idea to discuss this with your doctor. Medical research makes new discoveries every day. It is more important than ever to have regular check-ups and discuss current thinking with your healthcare professional.

For those who wish to learn more about antioxidants, the following list comes from the National Institutes of Health as posted on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Resources website:

Beta-carotene is found in many foods that are orange in color, including sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, apricots, pumpkin, and mangos. Some green leafy vegetables including collard greens, spinach, and kale are also rich in beta-carotene.

Lutein, best known for its association with healthy eyes, is abundant in green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, and kale.

Lycopene is a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges, and other foods. Estimates suggest 85 percent of American dietary intake of lycopene comes from tomatoes and tomato products.

Selenium is a mineral, not an antioxidant nutrient. However, it is a component of antioxidant enzymes. Plant foods like rice and wheat are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries. The amount of selenium in soil, which varies by region, determines the amount of selenium in the foods grown in that soil. Animals that eat grains or plants grown in selenium-rich soil have higher levels of selenium in their muscle. In the United States, meats and bread are common sources of dietary selenium. Brazil nuts also contain large quantities of selenium.

Vitamin A is found in three main forms: retinol (Vitamin A1), 3,4-didehydroretinol (Vitamin A2), and 3-hydroxy-retinol (Vitamin A3). Foods rich in vitamin A include liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolks and mozzarella cheese.

Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid, and can be found in high abundance in many fruits and vegetables and is also found in cereals, beef, poultry and fish.

Vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, is found in almonds, in many oils including wheat germ, safflower, corn and soybean oils, and also found in mangos, nuts, broccoli and other foods.

If you would like to learn about what foods contain the most antioxidants, please watch the following video:

Is There a Breast Cancer Gene?   

If there is one thing that we have learned about cancer, it is that it is an extremely complex disease. The more research we do, the more we discover that there is a lot we do not know. We no longer hear much about finding a “cure for cancer”, because each type seems to have a different cause or combination of contributing factors, and treatments that may be effective for one are not for another.

Genetics has been one focus of cancer research for decades. This has been especially true for breast cancer research. The acronym for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes stands for breast (BR) cancer (CA).    To say that there is a particular gene responsible for breast cancer, however, is somewhat disingenuous.  BRCA genes do not cause breast cancer. Actually, their function is just the opposite: they are tumor suppressor genes. Properly functioning BRCA genes are assigned the role of repairing breakdowns in the DNA that can result in the uncontrolled growth of tumors and, ultimately, cancer.

The reason that BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have become known as breast cancer genes is that a small percentage of these become mutated and, when that happens, the risk factor of developing breast cancer dramatically increases. So far, there have been nearly 2,000 mutations identified in the BRCA2 gene, alone. Many of these have been linked to breast cancer, as well as other types of cancer, in both women and me. It is important to note that not everyone with a mutated BRCA gene will develop cancer, and other factors, including environmental exposures and lifestyle practices, also contribute to an individual’s risk.

Should Everyone Get Tested for BRCA Mutations?

As with other types of mutated genes, these can be passed from one generation to the next. Despite the fact that the survival rate for cancer is getting better all the time, it is still a frightening and dreaded disease. Some women, upon learning they have these mutations, choose to have preventive surgery to remove their breasts because they have such a strong belief that cancer is inevitable for them. This is why you see headlines and reports about women, like Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate, who voluntarily undergo double mastectomies even without evidence of cancer. Each tested positive for mutations in BRCA genes, and each had mother’s with cancer.

But, should everyone be tested? Normally, a BRCA gene test isn’t routinely performed unless there is likely to be increased risk based on personal or family history. Some factors that may ring alarm bells and prompt testing are:

  • A close relative, like a mother or sister, diagnosed with breast cancer, especially before age 50
  • Multiple breast cancers on the same side of the family, especially before age 50
  • Male breast cancer on either side of the family
  • Ovarian cancer in the family since the risk for both are closely related

Right now, somewhere in the range of 12% of women will develop breast cancer at some point in life. For those with genetic mutations, that risk is significantly higher. It is estimated that 45 – 65% of women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations will develop breast cancer before age 70. While these are alarming numbers that require consistent attention, the good news is that, with early detection, the vast majority can be successfully treated. That is true for those cases with BRCA mutations as well as those without.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer?

 Men never get breast cancer, right?

Wrong. Men not only get breast cancer, but, when they do, they are more likely to die from it than women are. The reason for the difference in mortality rate is largely because of the stigma that men feel about being diagnosed with a disease that is seen to be only for women. Cancer, of any kind, can be life-threatening, but, no matter who it strikes, one of the key factors in survival rates is early detection. The more advanced the disease is, the greater the odds against beating it. Men rarely pay attention unless there is a noticeably large lump. Unfortunately, by this time, it is more than likely to already be growing and possibly spreading.

The embarrassment of having a “woman’s disease” aside, there is far less attention paid to breast cancer in men. There is a reason that all of the awareness campaigns are in pink: roughly, the odds of breast cancer for women are 1 in 8, while for men, they are 1 in 1,000. Once diagnosed, the treatment and prognosis for men and women are basically the same. Bringing medical attention to breast cancer in men would increase early detection and save lives.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Men

With age comes a greater risk for breast cancer for men and women. For men, most breast cancers occur between the ages of 60 and 70. Other factors that increase risk for men include:

  • Family History –family members, especially men, who have or have had breast cancer
  • Radiation – exposure to radiation, especially in the chest
  • Drug or Hormone Treatments – causing enlargement of the breast (gynecomastia)
  • Estrogen – environmental exposure, used to fatten beef cattle and in the pesticide DDT
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome – rare genetic condition in men that results in lower levels of androgens (male hormones) and higher levels of estrogen (female hormones), increasing the growth of breast tissue and risk of breast cancer
  • Cirrhosis of the Liver – increases estrogen level
  • Testicle Abnormalities – diseases of the testicles such as mumps orchitis, injuries to the testicles or conditions like an undescended testicle

While there has been an effort to heighten awareness about male breast cancer, due to the relatively low incidence compared to women, it is unlikely that there will be general screening or a focus on mammograms or other types of testing. This makes individual self-awareness all the more important. Some of the more common signs for men to watch for are:

  • A lump or swelling in the breast, which is usually (but not always) painless
  • Painful nipple
  • An inverted or retracted nipple that turns inward
  • Discharge from the nipple, clear or bloody
  • Sores, redness or scaling on the nipple and areola, the small ring around the center of the nipple
  • Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm
  • Skin dimpling or puckering

For anyone diagnosed with cancer, early detection is crucial. According to the American Cancer Society, these are the statistics for 5-year survival rates for men:

Stage I 100%

Stage II 91%

Stage III 72%

Stage IV 20%

By some estimates, there is a gap of more than a year and a half between when the first symptom appears and diagnosis for men. That is simply too long.   

If you are wondering how you can prevent male breast cancer, please watch the following video:

How To Feel Sexy After Surviving Breast Cancer

Returning to intimacy after surviving any form of cancer is important. According to a study in October 2014, female cancer survivors experience sexual dysfunction post treatment. This stems from body image issues and the fear that their loved ones will no longer find them attractive in their new body. They stress about weight loss, hair loss, lopsided breasts from reconstruction, lack of nipples, and much more.

If you are feeling this way, it’s nice to know that you are not alone. But through time and a little effort, you can restore intimacy and learn to love yourself again.

Here are some ways that you can start to feel sexy:

1. A lingerie shopping spree! A good high-quality piece of lingerie that extenuates all the right places can make you forget the scars or misshapen breasts and make you feel like a strong confident woman. There are several post mastectomy bras available online.

2. Try some blindfold play in the bed room! Blindfold your partner and let them explore your body with just their lips. You’ll never know what new areas of your body will stimulate your senses.

3. Lap dance! Dancing increases blood flow and can help tone muscles.

While these tips are fine for making you feel sensual again, the true way to feel sexy is to love yourself. Take for instance, this woman’s inspiring story: