A man whose parents both had breast cancer and who developed the same worrisome symptoms as his dad was denied a mammogram at a local health clinic - because he's a man.
Scott Cunningham, a 45-year-old Marion, N.C., resident, delayed going to the doctor for months because he had no health insurance after getting laid off from his job. When his symptoms worsened, he called the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District's National Breast and Cervical Center Early Detection Program, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It serves women between 40 and 60.
The program, which offers breast and cervical cancer screening to low-income, uninsured women, turned him down.
Breast cancer, 100 times less common in men than women, according to the CDC, tends to be more deadly in men. Some 440 of the 2,000 men who came down with breast cancer in the U.S. last year will die from the disease. Of the 240,000 women who get breast cancer this year, about 40,000 will die. Breast cancer can occur at any age, though it's more common as one grows older. Early diagnosis is key in men as well as women.
Men tend to delay seeing a doctor, so many male breast cancers aren't diagnosed until they are well advanced.
One of the risks of getting breast cancer is having a family history, according to the CDC. Male breast cancer has a strong genetic link, Dr. Deborah Axelrod, director of the breast program at NYU's Clinical Cancer Center.
Symptoms can include changes in the skin or nipple or a thickening or painless lump in the breast tissue.
In Cunningham's case, a clinical nursing supervisor at the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health Department said federal funds for breast screening are just for women, but that efforts were underway to help Cunningham get a referral for health care.