Even though breast cancer is more widespread in women, men can get it too. 1 out of 100 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in men in the United States. The most common types of breast cancer in both the genders are alike.

In men, the cancer of breast is usually identified as a stiff lump underneath the nipple and areola. Since the awareness amongst men is poor and they are less likely to assume some abnormality as cancer, they carry a higher mortality rate in comparison to women. In addition, a majority of men are diagnosed with this cancer over the age of 50.

Symptoms of breast cancer in men

The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men are—

  • Flaky or red skin around the breast
  • Swelling or lump in the breast
  • Dimpling or irritation of the breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Pain in the nipple region

It is important to note that the symptoms alone do not indicate cancer, therefore, one must seek professional advice at the earliest.

Risk factors

Multiple factors can increase a man’s propensity of developing breast cancer. However, having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you will get breast cancer.

  • Aging – Most of the breast cancers in men are detected after the age of 50 as the risk increases with the advancing age
  • Genetic changes – Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, heighten the risk for breast cancer
  • Breast cancer history in family – If someone in the family has had breast cancer, a man’s risk for developing the same also increases
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy of chest increases a man’s risk for developing breast cancer
  • Hormone therapy – Use of estrogen containing drugs may also increase a man’s chances of developing breast cancer

If multiple members of your family have had cancers of breast or ovary, or one of your family members has a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, please do not hesitate in sharing this information with your healthcare provider. Your provider may then refer you for genetic counseling. This information is critical because in men, mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can increase the susceptibility to breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and high-grade prostate cancer.

  • Klinefelter syndrome – This is a rare genetic disorder in which a male has an extra X chromosome. Because of this, the body can end up producing high levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens
  • Conditions affecting the testicles – Swelling, injury or a surgery of the testicles can also increase the risk for developing breast cancer in males
  • Liver disorders – Scarring (Cirrhosis) of the liver can bring down the androgen levels and elevate levels of estrogen, thereby increasing the breast cancer risk
  • Weight gain and obesity – Men who are older and overweight or obese are also at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Men can lower their risk of breast cancer by keeping a healthy weight and exercising regularly.  

How Is Breast Cancer Treated?

Treatment for breast cancer remains the same in both men and women. It may comprise of chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and counseling.

Almost all breast cancers in men are estrogen receptor positive which are treated with hormonal therapy, just like for 70% of women. Survival rates for men with breast cancer are comparable to those of women. 

It can’t be stressed enough that the treatment options are increased, are less invasive and there is a considerably reduced risk for complications and death with early screening.

If you are a man, please take your health seriously and reach out for medical attention in case you observe some abnormality.

If you are woman, encourage the men in your life to talk openly about their health issues and seek support for the same.  

Sources

  1. https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/male-breast-cancer
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/men/index.htm

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