Monday, October 8, 2018


It is all too common in human nature to fear what we do not know and conceal what may alienate us. From the success of awareness groups such as the Male Breast Cancer Coalition, the growing trend of male breast cancer cases is coming to light throughout the media and slowly evolving out of being a "rare" cancer as men are now finding their way to get checkups.  My office is starting to see more and more male breast cancer cases lately thanks to environmental pollutants, toxins, unhealthy foods and the many cancer-causing influencers in our daily lives.

Ret. Chief Larry Overcast- Firefighter turned Breast Cancer Missionary
I was first alerted to this by the firefighters at 9/11 who were developing breast tumors at an unheard of high rate. When I first started doing breast imaging, we would see one male breast cancer a year. Now, many of the firefighters are developing benign and malignant breast tumors (see image).

Men are unwilling to have mammograms for two reasons: it hurts, and it misses a lot of small cancers.  Our 4-D Advanced Sonogram has become the very first diagnostic test specific for male breast cancer not only because of its effectiveness but the entire scanning experience is so different that it practically gives the patient full control of what they're seeing and what I'm looking for.

Immediately, you can see if it's suspicious or not. Together, we can identify benign breast tumors that don't need to be biopsied. Should there be anything suspicious, seeing the cancer with the sonogram lets you work the next step which includes working a tiny needle underneath the skin under ultrasound guidance. You can see the needle go directly into the tumor, aspirate a few times, and send the biopsy sample out for diagnosis.  That kind of real-time activity and control brings so much relief to my patients. It's also a much more effective system to find and diagnose it all in the same short setting.

Men continue to be afraid to visit women's imaging centers or a facility with a waiting room full of women. They're even afraid to touch their own breasts for a self-checkup. I was taking care of one of the 9/11 firefighters for early cancer detection of the lung, the thyroid, the prostate and the liver. As I finished the exam, and was walking out, he said, "Doc, I think I have a lump under my arm." I scanned under his arm, and of course, there was nothing, so he said, "Let me find it." And he couldn't find it. Then I said, "Look, I can see under the skin easily", and as I was moving the probe towards the breast, he was looking at the screen because I was looking at the probe, and he saw this big white area and yelled, "Doc, what is that?" And I said, "This white area, if this was black, this is a metastatic lymph node. But since it's white, it's benign fatty tumor."

Where male breast cancers are concerned, my imaging center has always been compassionate about privacy as far as addressing the emotional impact in cancer patients.  I understand their concerns after working on prostate cancer imaging for 30 years and written two textbooks on prostate cancer.

The ultrasound is quick (5 minutes or less), real-time and painless and a most accurate way to diagnose ANY cancer, making it that much more comfortable for men in the office. And if they are worried about something else, like a bump on the skin, or a mole on their back, or some funny feeling or change in their breasts or under their arm, we can check that at the same visit. It's simply putting on a different probe that goes over the skin, looking and taking a picture.

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