Man Denied Mammogram at Clinic Because of Gender

In addition to the common struggles women face when diagnosed with breast cancer, men with breast cancer also face the frustrations that come with being a man who has what most people think of as a woman's disease.

by Dena Afrasiabi

In addition to the common struggles women face when diagnosed with breast cancer, men with breast cancer also face the frustrations that come with being a man who has what most people think of as a woman's disease. A North Carolina man's recent experience illustrates the difficulties men with breast cancer have when it comes to finding resources and treatment.

A low-income health clinic denied a mammogram to 45 year-old Scott Cunningham because of his gender. Cunningham had good reason to believe he might have the disease: both his parents were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past. Cunningham had experienced symptoms for months, but decided not to visit a doctor. Recently laid-off, he did not have health insurance.

When he finally called the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District’s National Breast and Cervical Center Early Detection Program, which offers breast and cervical cancer screening to low-income women between 40 and 60, they told him he didn't qualify for their services because he wasn't a woman. "I didn't know what to do at first. I was stunned and confused. Breast cancer used to be just a woman's cancer, but now it's well-known men are susceptible,"  he said.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is far less common in men than it is in women because male breast duct cells are less developed than women's, and because they don't have female hormones that promote growth in breast cells, potentially causing tumors to grow in the breasts. In 2009, about 1,910 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in men, according to the American Cancer Society's data. Approximately 440 men died of the disease. The risk kof a man developing breast cancer at some point in his life is about 1 in 1,000.