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More Than Pink

October 18, 2019

October is the month of pink. It surrounds us in the multitude of pink ribbons adorning everything from jackets to cars. We see it among the women dressed head-to-toe in pink clothes as they run marathons to raise money for breast cancer research. October is the month dedicated to breast cancer awareness in the U.S.

But men can be overlooked in this field of pink. Although having less breast tissue decreases their risk for the disease, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society's Cancer Statistic Center, of the approximately 271,000 new cases of breast cancer that will be diagnosed in 2019, about 2,670 will be in men.

Researchers at New York University School of Medicine and its Perlmutter Cancer Center published a study in September 2019 demonstrating that men at higher risk of developing breast cancer may benefit from mammography or x-ray screening. The study’s authors came to this conclusion after conducting an extensive review in the U.S. of the medical records of men who have been screened by mammograms. They found mammography to be more effective at detecting breast cancer in high-risk men than in women at the average age of risk for breast cancer. They attributed this to the lesser amount of breast tissue in men, which cannot hide small tumors as well as in women. Researchers concluded that more research is needed to determine at what age and frequency high-risk men should get mammograms.

Another patient group often overshadowed in the messaging and focus on breast cancer awareness are those with metastatic disease. These patients may require more specific resources, such as specialized counseling, information on emerging treatments and access to clinical trials, and continual communication with providers and supportive services.

Since 2015, ACCC has partnered with the Cancer Support Community, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, and Worldwide Breast Cancer to raise awareness about the unique needs of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Most recently, ACCC conducted an online survey to better understand the services multidisciplinary cancer care centers offer their patients with metastatic breast cancer. The survey represents more than 100 care team members from 86 unique programs. The top five challenges respondents identified when caring for patients with metastatic breast cancer were:

  1. Balancing hope and realism
  2. Patient fear and uncertainty
  3. Patient psychosocial needs
  4. Managing patient expectations
  5. Patient financial concerns

Survey respondents work in a variety of settings, including community cancer programs, hospital associate cancer programs, academic comprehensive cancer programs, and more. Because the needs of metastatic breast cancer patients are experienced in all care settings, ACCC invited a diverse group of stakeholders to participate in a Multidisciplinary Metastatic Breast Cancer Summit in Washington, D.C., on October 7, 2019 to address disparities and current issues in metastatic breast cancer care. The summit is part of ACCC’s ongoing Metastatic Breast Cancer Project, which includes an interactive online resource bank that connects users to curated materials such as webinars, articles, blogs, and more to help close communication, education, and information gaps for patients and providers. Additional ACCC resources address process improvement and effective practices to customize care for patients with metastatic breast cancer.

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