Updated: Feb 27
Raising Awareness ... that Men Can Get it Too
According to statistics published by Cancer Research UK, whilst it's rare in men, about 1% of breast cancer cases in the UK are in males (around 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, compared with around 55,000 cases in women).
I am sure you'll agree, that's still one too many, whatever the gender.
Most of us have had our lives touched by cancer in some way; whether it's ourselves, our family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances or even our pets.
Make time for T.L.C. - Touch Look Check
Cancer survival rates are generally understood to be getting better and better, as we learn more and more about different types of cancer and how best to approach them. In the case of breast cancer, there are many different types that all come under that same over-arching label of "breast cancer."
Stats suggest that women with breast cancer live longer than men with breast cancer. Could that be largely because men don't realise they can get breast cancer too and are completely missing some of the early warning signs and symptoms?
So, whatever your gender, here's a handy at-a-glance guide published by the charity Breast Cancer Now that clarifies some of the most common symptoms to not only be aware of, but to do the actions too:
Touch Look and Check
Remember, nobody knows your body as well as you do. When anything is different from what your "normal" is, give it a bit of a TLC.
The exact cause of breast cancer "is not known" and as with so many other health issues, there really doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule about Who Gets What, or When or Why.
For example, have you ever noticed that:
you don't have to have ever smoked to get lung cancer?
you don't have to be unfit to have a heart attack?
you don't have to be old to get dementia?
you don't have to have bad nutrition to suffer with digestive issues?
As it turns out, your health (or lack of it) is as individual as you are.
However, there are a widely recognised set of common risk factors that are believed to increase your susceptibility to ill-health.
To find out more about the risk factors for a particular diagnosis, find a specialist support organisation for that particular condition.
For ease of reference, in the case of Breast Cancer, here in the UK we have a number of specialist sources of information relating to cancer support, for both men and women and here are just 2 of them:
Cancer Research UK Risk factors you Can change and Risk factors you can't change
Macmillan Cancer Support Risk factors for breast cancer in men
As you can see, some of the most common risk factors here are cited as age, family history of cancer, oestrogen levels, previous exposure to radiation in that area of the body, and ethnicity (largely due to lifestyle differences).
In my own experience as a Health Coach, I'd also cite Stress here too; what was it that was going on in your life during the 6-8 months prior to - and during the period of - your diagnosis? How well were you coping with it? Were you worrying a lot about it or feeling under a lot of pressure and unrest? Let's not forget those mental or emotional risk factors that can also take their toll on your long-term health.
Building Your Strength and Resilience
That moment of diagnosis, when you're first told you have cancer, is a massive shock. Since it is likely to be an unexpected and sudden bolt out of the blue for you, that moment in itself is highly likely to trigger your natural "Fight Flight Freeze" response. Whilst this is absolutely 100% normal and natural, it can present you with an additional set of symptoms to deal with. You might start experiencing sleepless nights when your mind replays that diagnosis moment over and over, or you might get panic attacks when you didn't before, experience anxiety, depression, or a significant change in your normal behaviour patterns (uncharacteristically more aggressive perhaps, or extremely withdrawn). These are all typical responses to a big life-changing shock such as a big life-changing diagnosis. (If you want to find out more about this, I invite you to click the following link and have a quick read of my previous blog post 2_Stress_Triggers_you_need_to_know_about).
Gathering as much information as possible through your own research will help you make well-informed decisions about the next steps; your survival strategy (your course of treatment).
When you consult with the General Practitioner or Medical Doctor responsible for your diagnosis and initial treatment, be sure to ask as many questions as you can think of, including:
what type of cancer is it?
exactly where is it?
what are the recommended treatment options?
how can you prepare yourself for treatment?
what are the likely side effects, both short and long term?
what are your chances of recovery?
Whilst knowledge is power, do remember that Google is a "search engine" and not a "research engine." Gather information from trusted and reputable sources. Your GP/MD will be able to sign-post you further on these.
Everyone reacts differently and copes the best they can in their own way. Doing your own research will, however, help you feel more empowered about your future health choices and options.
Give yourself a positive start to the challenges of your future journey. This is where your inner resilience, strengths, and a realistic yet optimistic mindset all want to be coming to the fore; working FOR you, and not against you.
Helping yourself on your cancer-wellness journey
In addition to your course of treatment, there is so much you can do to support your own health and wellbeing.
Move yourself to the top of your own priority list
If you've been holding down a high-stress, competitive job, or you've always been one of life's carers and supporters in your family or social circle, then could now be time to gently but firmly start thinking more about You, and what your own needs are? When others come to you expecting you to prop them up, support them, help them meet their deadlines and so on (whatever it is you've always done that has made big demands on your time and energy resource), maybe learning to gently but firmly say "thank you, but no thank you...." could be the key to a doorway on a whole new way of being that your mind, body and soul will thank you for.
Embrace the "4 Pillars of Human Health"
Reviewing your lifestyle and giving the "4 pillars of human health" some consideration is also something you'll find rewards you well for your time and effort. None of these are rocket science; there's nothing new here in health and wellness circles, but it's worth reminding ourselves of them from time to time when our health and recovery gets moved to the top of our agenda:
PILLAR 1 - NUTRITION
Finding out what works best for you might take a little time. There have been so many different diet "fads" in the last 10 years, each promoted by so many different experts, it can be truly overwhelming.
The golden rule is to nourish your body as best you can so that it can repair, renew and build resilience. In common sense terms, this means a balanced, varied diet and one that suits You.
You're probably already aware of all the recommended ingredients that go into a good, healthy, balanced diet. In lifestyle medicine circles, these are fresh fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts & seeds (high in anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals), limited refined carbs (sugar, white flour, white rice that all lack nutritional value and contribute to inflammation), and selectively choosing 2 or 3 key supplements. Plant-based protein rather than meat-based protein is usually recommended, but as in all things, balance is a good thing and if you enjoy fish or meat, then eating a bit of what you fancy does you good.
PILLAR 2 - STRESS MANAGEMENT
Include some quality rest, recovery and pure relaxation time into your schedule; preferably daily. Some treatments can be extremely gruelling so it's important to let yourself have some time to rest, and connect with yourself on a deep level of being.
Making time for relaxational practices such as yoga and meditation are good habits to cultivate that help you feel quieter and more peaceful within yourself. (Find out about my online Learn to Meditate course if this is all new to you and you aren't sure where to start).
Laughter is also a powerful way to "let off steam" and reduce stress. Read or watch something that gives you the giggles and go out more with those friends who make you smile too!
Or simply read, listen to some relaxing music, engage in a relaxing hobby, or book yourself in for a relaxational holistic therapy session somewhere local. (If you've always enjoyed Massage Therapy in the past, there's no reason to stop now! Take a look at my previous blog post Massage & Cancer Support for a little more info on this if you aren't sure).
PILLAR 3 - EXERCISE
Your energy levels as you progress through your treatment will be up and down, just as your motivation will be to do it! But you don't have to go to the gym every day.
Any regular, moderate exercise on a daily basis (even just for 5 or 10 mins) will improve your overall wellbeing.
Walking, biking, strength training, dancing .. your choices are unlimited and can all be adapted, if necessary, so they are convenient to do inside or outside your home, seated or standing.
What form of exercise is it that you love to do most? Do more of that.
PILLAR 4 - LOVE & SUPPORT
Being able to give love and support to others, as well as being able to receive, is super important for your wellbeing.
Loneliness can be extremely debilitating whereas bonding and social connection corresponds with better life expectancy and wellness in the long-term.
Surround yourself with as many loving, supportive people as possible. Join additional support groups if you need to, or volunteer to help out in organisations that resonate with you. Put plenty of dates in your diary to meet up with friends for a chat at your favourite cafe.
These are all powerful components in building your strength and resilience on all levels of being: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual too.
Wherever you are on your own health and wellbeing journey, please know that you ALWAYS have options and choices.
If you feel like you've already tried everything and have run out of ideas and inspiration, or just need a bit of extra encouragement, support and motivation, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Join me for a free online Discovery Call and you'll get a complimentary Lifestyle Prescription™ to take away and get your health and wellness action plan started!
Cancer Research UK/ Breast Cancer in Men
Breast Cancer Now / TouchLookCheck chart & other useful resources
National Cancer Institute / Breast Cancer Treatment
Ornish Institute / Proven Cardiac Health Recovery Program / The 4 pillars of health
Food Revolution Org / 4_pillars_for_heart_health
PubMed Research Library cited Intensive Lifestyle Changes and Prostate Cancer cited
Want to feel better?
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