Norman Smith, a 65-year-old school teacher and father of two in Connecticut, has survived male breast cancer and is now advocating for awareness of this rare, but very real disease. Diagnosed about a year ago, Smith underwent treatment and is now trying to get the word out that male breast cancer is a real threat.
After scraping his nipple while working on his car, Smith's chest became inflamed and, a few days later, he worried it was something more than just a bruise. He talked with his physician, who did a mammogram and found a stage II lump under Smith's nipple. Treatment began and since then, Smith has been on a mission to advocate for male breast cancer awareness as well as pushing for more research for the relatively rare disease.
Genetics, exposure, and hormones are all accountable risk factors in male breast cancer.
A family history of the disease, a genetic predisposition to any type of cancer, exposure to radiation, and hormonal irregularities are all potential risk factors for male breast cancer. Smith learned, for example, that he has the "BRCA" gene, an inherited mutation that indicates a higher risk of cancer development in the individual. This gene is inherited from both fathers and mothers, so any parent with the gene has a 50 percent chance of handing it down to their progeny.
Smith now actively engages with the YMCA's LiveStrong program to promote male breast cancer awareness and gives lectures at the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine to medical students about the patient's side of the breast cancer story.