Anyone can develop breast cancer

by Mary Turner
HIV/AIDS Medical Columnist

Did you know that cisgender males make up less than one percent of all cases of adult breast cancer? For men, this disease can be problematic, not for how many men might be impacted, but by the fact that most people don’t associate this type of cancer with men.

Sadly, with these cis males, cancer may not be detected until it has reached a late stage and may be harder to treat.

Like cisgender men, transgender men and transgender women may also develop breast cancer. While there is not a lot of data yet on breast cancer among transgender men and women, there are risk factors. Estrogen plays a key role in the development of breast cancer. People undergoing hormone therapy should work closely with their medical providers to monitor changes in breast tissue.

Since the body converts excess testosterone into estrogen, those receiving testosterone treatments should monitor changes in their bodies closely. Even if breasts are removed and the person has undergone chest reconstruction surgery, some breast tissue will remain, and this tissue is susceptible to cancer.

Another risk factor is age. For both men and women, the risk of breast cancer increases as we age. Not surprising due to exposure to radiation or other carcinogens increasing a person’s likelihood of developing breast cancer.

There is also a family history component to consider. Genetic testing can identify whether a person has a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene that would show an elevated risk of breast or ovarian cancer. Some insurance providers will cover the cost of this test if the person has a family history that supports a high risk for cancer.

In America, breast cancer is the leading cause of death by cancer for Hispanic women. It is the second leading cause of death by cancer for white, black, Asian, and American Indian women.

According to the most recent statistics (2016), there were 126 newly diagnosed cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women in Oklahoma. American Indian women reported the highest percentage of those new cases. Cisgender straight women tend to have a lower incidence of breast cancer than many cisgender LBTQ+ peers due in part to the straight population being more likely to have regular exams because of pregnancy and childbirth.

Contributing risk factors for cisgender women include the onset of menses on or before the 12th birthday, not having children or having the first child after the age of 35, higher levels of alcohol use, and obesity.

Doctors recommend that all people perform a monthly breast self-exam. This exam is not necessarily intended to be diagnostic, but rather for the person to familiarize themselves with their breasts and to normalize how they look and feel. People who perform these self-exams regularly are more likely to notice any abnormality and report it to their physician right away.

Early detection and treatment are vital for treating and surviving this type of cancer. Diagrams and videos show the correct way to perform the exam, but speaking with your nurse or physician first might help alleviate any worries the person might have and help ensure the exam is performed correctly.

Understanding our bodies is a great first step to keeping ourselves healthy.

Copyright The Gayly. 10/14/2019 @ 10:00 a.m. CST.