Breast Cancer in Men: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

What is Breast Cancer in Men? (Image Source: Shutterstock)

What Is Breast Cancer in Men?

Breast cancer in men is a type of cancer that grows in the breast tissue. Men’s breasts are different from women’s, but they do have small amounts of breast tissue. Before puberty, girls and boys have similar amounts of breast tissue. The tissue consists of a few ducts under the areola and nipple. After puberty, hormones cause the breast ducts to grow and lobules to form in girls. Due to low levels of female hormones, men’s breast tissue doesn’t grow as much. But due to the presence of breast tissue, men can get the same types of breast cancer as women.

Breast Cancer Does Not Discriminate Against Men | The Doctors

Which Men Are Likely to Get Breast Cancer?

Anyone can get breast cancer, but it’s rare in men who are below thirty-five. Your chances go up as you age. Most breast cancers diagnosed in men are for those above fifty.

Anyone Can Get Breast Cancer (Image Source: Shutterstock)
  • Genetic mutations: Certain genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase your breast cancer risk. A mutation of these genes is what increases your risk of prostate and pancreatic cancer as well.
  • History of breast cancer in the family: If a close family member has had breast cancer, your chances of getting it increases. If you have a family history of breast cancer, regular breast screenings can help detect it early.
  • Exposure to radiation therapy: Men who have a history of radiation exposure to the chest are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Enlarged breasts due to hormone treatments: Some hormone treatments and drugs can lead to enlarged breasts. This increases your risk of breast cancer.
  • Estrogen exposure: Your breast cancer risk increases if you take estrogen-related drugs, like those used for prostate cancer treatment.
  • Rare genetic conditions: Klinefelter syndrome is a rare genetic condition where a man has an extra X chromosome copy. This causes the body to produce more estrogen and less androgen.
  • Liver diseases: Severe liver diseases like cirrhosis can lower androgen levels and raise estrogen levels. When that happens, you become more prone to breast cancer.
  • Testicular diseases: Certain conditions of the testicles, like injuries, an undescended testicle, or mumps orchitis, increase your breast cancer risk.
  • Obesity: Men tend to gain weight as they get older. When that weight leans towards obesity, you are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men

The symptoms of breast cancer in men are the same as those in women. Typically, your doctor will diagnose breast cancer when there is a lump in the breast. Very few men conduct self-breast examinations to feel for lumps. As such, cancer diagnosis comes when it’s too late.

Mayo Clinic Minute: Breast Cancer Strikes Men Too
  • Thickness, swelling, or a painless lump in the breast
  • Changes in the skin over the breast such as redness, puckering, dimpling, and flaky or scaly skin
  • Nipple changes like redness or scaling
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Changes in the positioning of the nipple, such as a nipple that turns inward
  • Pain or irritation in the nipple area

Male Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Early Detection Saves Lives

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 685,000 breast cancer fatalities annually. Every year, though, the focus is more on female breast cancer and prevention. But breast cancer in men is as real as it is in women. Sure, male breast cancer is rare, but men are still diagnosed with it every year. Breast cancer screening and conducting self-examinations at home can lead to early detection. The treatment for male breast cancer depends on the size of the tumor and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. An oncologist might also recommend hormone therapy or targeted therapy.

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