… and a look at the benefits of dragon boat racing for breast cancer survivors of either sex.
By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor
Although breast cancer is far less common in men than in women, being a man doesn’t make one immune to the disease. Yet misconceptions about male breast cancer abound. In this month’s CE feature, Men’s Awareness and Knowledge of Male Breast Cancer, nurse researcher Eileen Thomas reports on a qualitative study of 28 men at higher risk (all had at least one maternal relative who had been diagnosed with breast cancer). The goals were twofold: to learn more about men’s understanding and perceptions of this life-threatening illness, and to elicit information that might guide clinical practice and the development of sex-specific educational interventions.
The study findings are rather startling. Nearly 80% of the participants had no idea that men could develop breast cancer. Fully 100% of the participants reported that none of their primary care providers had discussed the disease with them. Asked how they thought male breast cancer was detected, most participants could name only one symptom (“a lump”); one said, “They find it on the autopsy table.” And 43% reported that being diagnosed with breast cancer might cause them to question their masculinity. One participant stated, “I would feel like my manhood was taken away.”
Thomas emphasizes that sex-specific, gender-appropriate educational interventions are needed: “It’s not enough to simply change the word ‘female’ to ‘male.’ ” For more, listen to a discussion between Thomas and AJN interim editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy. A related profile of one survivor and his efforts to raise public awareness can be found here.
In Dragon Boat Racing: Life After Breast Cancer Treatment, author Linda L. McCausland offers a look at a sport increasingly popular among survivors of breast cancer. It was long believed that vigorous upper-body exercise could increase the risk for post–breast cancer treatment lymphedema. But recent research indicates that such exercise neither triggers nor worsens lymphedema—and might even prevent it. McCausland discusses the findings of relevant studies, shares her own experiences as a breast cancer survivor and dragon boat racing enthusiast, and describes how to start a dragon boat team. And if you missed Mei Fu and colleagues’ two-part series on post–breast cancer lymphedema (July and August, 2009), you can read part 1 here and part 2 here.