Men with breast cancer: Medicaid won’t cover treatment for men

Raymond Johnson, a 26-year-old construction worker fromCharleston, S.C., was recently denied Medicaid coverage for breast cancer treatment because he is a man.

Johnson has said he was surprised to learn his diagnosis, which doctors discovered after he experienced chest pain over the July 4th weekend. But every couple of years, a case of a man getting the disease puts men with breast cancer in the news. In 2002, former Sen. Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass.) fought the disease, which he discovered when his wife felt a lump under his right nipple. According to this report from the New York Times, Brooke had suffered chest pain for some time but never thought it might be breast cancer.

More recently, it was Kiss drummer Peter Criss’ turn to put men and breast cancer in the spotlight. He discovered he had the disease in 2008, and has been an outspoken advocate of early treatment.

The American Cancer society’s pages on breast cancer in men lay out the facts. About 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, which makes it rare: about 100 times more women get the disease. Men -- just like women -- are more likely to develop cancer if they have certain mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Family history and age contribute to a man’s likelihood of developing the disease as well. Heavy drinking and exposure to radiation are believed to be risk factors, as is obesity. A recent breast cancer cluster among men who had been exposed to contaminated drinking water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune had patients wondering if there was also a link between chemical exposure and the disease.

Johnson will undergo chemotherapy and surgery to remove his cancer. He still doesn’t know how he’ll pay the bills.