Though far less common than in women, men’s breast cancer is possible. According to the American Cancer Society, over 2000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, meaning men account for approximately 1% of all breast cancer cases diagnosed nationally. To gain more understanding about this lesser known male disease, take a look below.
Male Breast Cancer Symptoms
Though most lumps or changes in the breast for men are benign (not cancerous) abnormalities, men should still report any major changes, irritations or problems to their doctors as soon as possible.
The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men are actually quite similar to the symptoms for women. These include nipple inversion, detecting a lump, unexplained tissue growth, change in breast size, skin puckering or dimpling, nipple discharge, itchiness or redness.
Men generally have less breast tissue than women, making it much easier to detect lumps. However, this also means the cancer can spread to other parts of the body more quickly than in women. This is why early detection is so critical for men.
Contributing Factors for Men’s Breast Cancer
Most men diagnosed with male breast cancer are between the ages of 60 and 70.
Approximately 20 percent of men with breast cancer have one or more close family members who have or have had the disease.
Prior Radiation Exposure
Radiation exposure to the chest (for example, past treatment for lung cancer) can be a risk factor for the development of male breast cancer.
History of Liver Diseases
The liver works to regulate hormones, meaning men who have survived liver failure or liver disease often have lower levels of androgens, the male hormones. Those low levels can put them at a higher risk for developing breast cancer or non-cancerous tissue growth.
Often men who are being treated for prostate cancer are put on estrogen treatments to help control the disease. These men may be at a higher risk for developing breast cancer. That said, the American Cancer Society says those risks are small and worth the benefits of improved health for prostate cancer patients.
Typically, men are born with one Y chromosome and one X chromosome. Klinefelter’s Syndrome is when a man is born with two or more X chromosomes (female chromosomes). Approximately 1 in 850 men were born with Klinefelter’s.
Men with this syndrome generally have lower levels of androgens and higher levels of estrogen and are therefore at a greater risk for developing male breast cancer.
How Breast Cancer in Men is Treated
Methods for treating men’s breast cancer include surgical removal of the tumor and any cancerous cells, chemo, radiation therapy, hormone therapy or a combination of all these treatments.
The survival rates for men with breast cancer often depend on the stage of the disease but range from 96% for stage I diagnosis to 24% for a stage IV diagnosis.
Men experiencing symptoms of breast cancer may be inhibited through embarrassment from requesting the assessment of a qualified physician. But given the severity of any type of cancer, the potential risk merits an extra effort to swallow one’s pride and make sure.