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Breast Cancer Awareness: Who’s Missing Here?

September 4, 2013

Originally published on Oct. 11, 2011

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. During this annual campaign emphasis is placed on increasing awareness of the importance of early breast cancer detection. Breast cancer treatment is most effective when the cancer has been diagnosed at an early stage and before it has spread to other parts of the body. Typically, the focus is on women because nearly 40,000 women die of breast cancer annually.

In Georgia, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP) conducts breast cancer screening for low income, uninsured women age 40 to 64 through the public health departments. Many of those women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will be eligible for the Women’s Health Medicaid Program that offers full Medicaid benefits while they are in active treatment.

On August 8, 2011, FoxNews.com featured a story about a 26 year old male, Raymond Johnson, a resident of South Carolina, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Males are born with a small amount of breast tissue that may develop cancer that accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers. Male breast cancer can occur at any age but is more common in older men. Men diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage have a good chance of surviving, but many men delay seeing their doctors when they notice unusual symptoms. For this reason, many male breast cancers are diagnosed when the disease is more advanced. The American Cancer Society estimates that 2,100 cases of breast cancer in men will be diagnosed in 2011. The male lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1/10 of one percent or one in 1,000.

Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer may include:

  • A painless lump or thickening in the breast
  • Changes to the skin of the breast such as dimpling, redness, or scaling
  • Changes to the nipples such as redness, scaling or turning inward
  • Discharge from the nipple

Mr. Johnson is not eligible for the South Carolina Medicaid program because the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act of 2000 limits treatment to biological females. Reportedly, he is continuing to seek treatment and to raise money to pay for it.

If Mr. Johnson resided in Georgia, he would have an option for obtaining treatment through the Department of Public Health, Division of Health Promotion. The Cancer State Aid Program, directed by Linda Koskela, M.P.H., was established in 1937 by the Georgia Legislature at the request of Georgia physicians to provide cancer treatment to uninsured and under-insured, low income cancer patients who would benefit most from treatment. Funding is determined by the Georgia legislature each year. Applications are made through participating Georgia Cancer State Aid facilities. Men who are diagnosed with breast cancer and meet the program eligibility criteria may apply; fourteen men with breast cancer were enrolled from 1999-2011. In Georgia, there would be hope for Mr. Johnson.