11/05/2014 03:48 pm ET Updated Jan 05, 2015

A Movember Moment

In 2003, 30 men in Melbourne, Australia, wondered what had become of that proud symbol of masculinity -- the moustache. They decided to dedicate the month of November to adorning their upper lips in the style of Tom Selleck and Olympic champion Mark Spitz. They called their movement "Movember."

It all began as a joke among friends. But in little more than a decade, "Movember" has grown into a powerful force that puts men's health first during the eleventh month of the year.

"Movember" seeks principally to raise awareness about cancers affecting males, including prostate and testicular cancer, but we should not forget that breast cancer, while rare, is a potentially fatal disease in men.

It is estimated that more than 2,300 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the United States over the next year (compared with 230,000 women). Unfortunately, men are usually diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage than women, primarily because they are less likely to know about risk factors and symptoms, or to report their concerns to a healthcare provider.

One reason, of course, is that men don't undergo regular breast screenings such as mammograms. Another is that men may be embarrassed by the possibility of having a "woman's disease." Beyond that, men are simply not taught to look for the warning signs of male breast cancer, which include:

  • Lump, hard knot, or thickening in the breast, chest, or underarm. This is usually painless, but may be tender
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling, puckering, or redness of the skin of the breast
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge (in rare cases)

These symptoms are not always a sign of cancer, but a health care provider should be consulted immediately if any are present. This is especially true if a man has particular risk factors for breast cancer, including getting older (breast cancer in men is most commonly diagnosed between ages 65 and 67); a family history of breast cancer; being overweight or obese, which can increase estrogen levels in the body; heavy alcohol use; and use of some hormone drugs employed to treat prostate cancer.

So "Movember," immediately following National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is also the perfect time to focus on all cancers that affect men.

It is also an appropriate time to pay tribute to all the men who have played an irreplaceable role in supporting their wives, sisters, mothers, and friends who have fought, or are fighting, breast cancer. The men who help see their loved ones and families through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery have earned our recognition and heartfelt thanks, not just in "Movember," but all year around.

Take care of yourselves and those you love. For more information about Movember and cancer, visit For more information about breast cancer (in women and men) visit