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Male Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is mostly considered a woman’s disease. When one talks about breast cancer, the immediate word that comes to mind is ‘women’. One tends to forget that men too have breast tissue and are vulnerable to breast cancer. However, this cancer is very rare in men. Nonetheless, it does occur in about 1% men, and the following paragraphs will cover some details regarding breast cancer in men.

How Common is Breast Cancer in Men?

Breast cancer is a rare condition in men. As the condition affects women in the majority of the  cases, men never come into focus. Studies show, for every 130 women with breast cancer, there is about 1 man diagnosed with the same disease.

Is There Any Difference Between Men and Women Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer in men is similar to breast cancer in women. The symptoms, diagnosis as well as treatment for both is similar. The only thing that may vary is the cause and risk factor.

Types of Male Breast Cancer

Breast cancer in men occurs when the cancer cells develop in the breast tissues. It can affect men of any age, but usually seen in men in the age group of 60 to 70 years. The different types of breast cancer in men include:

Infiltrating ductal carcinoma:

This is the type of cancer that spread beyond the cells in the breast. It is the most common type of breast cancer in men.

Ductal carcinoma in situ

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The cancer cells found in the ductal lining or milk ducts are called as ductal carcinoma in situ.

Inflammatory breast cancer

This is the type of breast cancer that causes the breasts to swell, appear red and feel warm on touch.

Paget disease of the nipple

This is a cancerous tumor that grows in the ducts below the nipple.

What Causes Male Breast Cancer?

Men too have breast tissue, although it is less in amount than women. This makes them vulnerable to breast cancer. Some of the causes that can lead to breast cancer in men include:

  • Age increases the chances of breast cancer in men
  • Presence of a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation in the affected man
  • Strong family history of breast cancer in men
  • High levels of estrogen due to obesity, long-term liver diseases or having certain genetic conditions
  • Exposure to radiation treatment in the chest area

What to Look For

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Symptoms of male breast cancer include the most common presence of painless lump near the nipple. In some, discharge from the nipple is also a sign of cancer in men. As compared to female breasts, it is very easy to spot the cancerous lumps in men. Other symptoms include:

  • Thickened skin around the breast
  • Changes in the nipple
  • Discharge form the nipple
  • Dimpling or puckering of skin around the breast and nipple
  • Swelling or pain in the breast or under the arm

Diagnosing Male Breast Cancer

The doctor will examine the breast and the area around the armpits, collarbones, etc. to check for lumps. A mammogram will be ordered to assess the breast tissue. Suspected breast lumps are pictured using ultrasound. A biopsy helps in detecting the type of breast cancer one has.

Treating Male Breast Cancer

Treatment for breast cancer in men is similar to the treatment for women. It involves hormone or targeted therapy, chemotherapy as well as radiation therapy.

The main treatment involves mastectomy. This surgery involves removal of the entire breast. As the size of male breasts is smaller than women, they are never considered for breast reconstruction surgery.

Most men ignore the signs of breast cancer. The reason being ignorance about male breast cancer as a disease and secondly the embarrassment to suffer from a condition usually considered a female problem. Most men feel shocked or scared to learn about breast cancer. One has to build a support group around themselves. Speak to your partner or family and share your diagnosis. This will help you overcome your fears and situation. The prognosis for male breast cancer is similar to women. Thus, the sooner you seek help, the better are your chances to overcome the disease.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015

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