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Male Breast Cancer FAQs

December, 2020

Cancer — including breast cancer — is one of the most commonly-claimed 9/11-related illnesses among claimants to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). While the vast majority of breast cancer cases strike women, it has also affected men. With most breast cancer resources and awareness campaigns being aimed at women, men face a distinct disadvantage — especially those who developed breast cancer due to 9/11 exposure. Below are frequently asked questions for 9/11 first-responders and survivors who suffer male breast cancer. For further information about the 911 victim compensation fund, please contact our attorneys. 

How Common is Male Breast Cancer? 

In contrast to female breast cancer, male breast cancer is exceptionally rare. According to the American Cancer Society, only about 1% of all breast cancers afflict men, making breast cancer among men about 100 times less common than it is among women. It is estimated that, in 2020, about 2,620 new cases of breast cancer in men will be diagnosed and that about 520 men will die from breast cancer. Overall, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer for men is about 1 in 833. 

There is also early evidence that male breast cancer may be prevalent among 9/11 first-responders and survivors. According to data from the New York Post, at least 15 men who were in the vicinity of Ground Zero have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The data is spotty, however. Because this type of cancer is comparatively rare — and because it often takes years for 9/11-related cancers to manifest symptoms — it is likely that incidences of breast cancer among male 9/11 first-responders and survivors will continue to climb. 

How Do Men Get Breast Cancer? 

Men, like women, are born with breast tissue. While women develop more breast tissue during puberty, men typically do not. But because of the presence of even small amounts of breast tissue, men can develop breast cancer. The types of breast cancer that can occur in men include: 

  • Cancer that begins in the milk ducts (ductal carcinoma)
  • Cancer that begins in the milk-producing gland (lobular carcinoma)
  • Other types of cancer, including Paget’s disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer 

It is not precisely known how men develop breast cancer, but risk factors include: 

  • Inherited mutated genes from parents (particularly mutations in the BRCA2 gene) 
  • Older age
  • Exposure to estrogen
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome
  • Liver disease
  • Obesity 
  • Testicle disease or surgery 

As with other types of 9/11-related cancers, evidence suggests that exposure to 9/11 toxins is also a risk factor in developing male breast cancer, although the exact mechanism by which it occurs is unknown. 

What Are the Symptoms? 

Symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to those in women. Some of the most common include: 

  • A lump in the breast. Typically, the lump occurs in only one breast, grows under or around the nipple, and is painless. 
  • The nipple turning inward 
  • Fluid that oozes from the nipple, which may be flecked with blood
  • A sore or rash around the nipple that does not go away
  • Hardening, reddening, or swelling of the nipple or surrounding skin
  • Small bumps in the armpit 

More general symptoms can include fatigue, aching, pain in the bones, shortness of breath, nausea, and jaundice.  

What Are the Treatments? 

Treatment for male breast cancer depends largely upon the patient’s overall health and the stage to which cancer has progressed. Some options are: 

  • Surgery: Surgical procedures include surgery to remove the breast tissue and surgery to remove lymph nodes from the breast 
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as x-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells
  • Hormone therapy: Cancerous tumors rely on hormones to grow; the growth can be targeted with hormone therapy in the form of medication
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses various medications to kill cancer cells, usually either intravenously or in pill form 

Although most standard breast cancer treatments have been shown to be equally as effective in men as in women, there are exceptions. For example, certain hormone therapy medications used for treating female breast cancer are not effective for treating male breast cancer. 

Treatments for male breast cancer can also be costly. However, benefits through the WTC Health Program and the VCF may be available to men whose breast cancer is 9/11-related. Contact a 911 victim compensation fund attorney for more details about the benefits available and whether you qualify for them. 

Are Men with Breast Cancer Eligible for VCF Benefits? 

Men with 9/11-related breast cancer are eligible for benefits through the VCF, but not in the way one might expect. While breast cancer is a presumptively covered condition, the form of breast cancer covered is only female breast cancer. However, male breast cancer is an eligible condition under the Rare Cancers category — a catch-all term for any cancer that occurs in less than 15 cases per 100,000 persons per year. The VCF may consider any form of cancer that meets that definition as potentially eligible for coverage, but male breast cancer is explicitly defined as a “rare cancer,” thus rendering those who suffer it eligible for VCF benefits

What Should Men with Breast Cancer Know About Applying for VCF Benefits? 

Generally, men with breast cancer are subject to the same VCF rules and regulations as other claimants. This involves two major steps: 

  1. Getting their cancer certified as 9/11-related by the WTC Health Program 
  2. Submitting a complete application to the VCF, along with all supporting documentation. 

Male breast cancer claimants should also be aware of the VCF program’s deadlines for registration: 

  • If you were certified by the WTC Health Program for a 9/11-related cancer before July 29, 2019, you must register with the VCF by July 29, 2021. 
  • If you have not been certified by the WTC Health Program for a 9/11-related cancer, or if your cancer is certified after July 29, 2019, you must register within two years of the latest date on which the WTC Health Program certifies your cancer as 9/11-related. 

Once you have properly registered with the VCF, you may file your claim at any time before October 1, 2090. 

Contact an Attorney for More Information About the 911 Victim Compensation Fund

For more information about benefits available for male breast cancer claimants through the 911 victim compensation fund, please contact an attorney at Pitta & Baione by using our online contact form or by calling us at 844-982-2667.