Male breast cancer is a disease we don’t often hear about, but knowing the facts could save your life. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an important time to highlight the dangers of breast cancer in men as well as women.
Breast Cancer Occurs in Men Too
Many people wonder: Men don’t have breasts, so how can they get breast cancer? In fact, men do possess a small amount of breast tissue, concentrated on the chest wall in the area directly behind each nipple. The difference is that the hormones in girls’ and women’s bodies stimulate this tissue to grow into full breasts at puberty. Boy’s and men’s bodies don’t produce as much of these hormones, so their breast tissue typically stays flat and small.
As with breast cancer in women, cancer of the male breast is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells of the breast tissue.
Breast cancer in men is a rare, and less than 1% of all breast cancer cases occur in men. The risk is higher for those with a family history of breast cancer (especially with a BRCA2 mutation), for those receiving radiotherapy, especially to the chest area, and for those taking hormonal medicines high in oestrogen. Obesity, high alcohol consumption and liver damage are also risk factors.
Early Diagnosis Saves Lives
Unlike women, men are not routinely screened for breast cancer. This means that when it is detected, it tends to be more advanced. An early diagnosis could make all the difference. Men should be encouraged to seek medical attention if they notice significant changes in their breast tissue, just as the women in their lives would do.
Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer
Here are some common warning signs to watch out for:
- A lump in the chest area
- Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm
- Nipple pain
- Changes in the appearance of the nipple
- Discharge from the nipple
- Sores on the nipple or areola
Prognosis and Treatment
The course of treatment will depend on a number of factors, and will be determined by the patient’s healthcare providers. It may include lymph node surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy or chemotherapy.
Because men have less breast tissue than women, it is more common for male breast cancer to have spread beyond the breast area by the time it’s identified. This is another reason why timely diagnosis is so important.
Men who are coping with breast cancer face a different environment to women coping with the disease. Misinformation and stigma can add to the physical and emotional stresses already affecting the patient. Informing and educating more men about the risk male breast cancer will help to clear up the misconceptions, and promote timely medical intervention.
Male Breast Cancer. Retrieved from: https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/type /male_bc?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu8DOmd2w3QIVSLHtCh2mdANoEAAYASAAEgJCr_D_BwE
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer-in-men/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html