Whenever we talk about breast cancer, we relate it with the females because the breast is the sign of femininity. Undoubtedly, females are the most common victim of breast cancer. But, regardless of the gender, breast cancer develops in both male and female.
You might be thinking that how can men get breast cancer when they do not have breasts? The answer lies in the fact that both men and women are born with breast cells. Unlike women, men do not have breast stimulating hormones and this is the reason of their flat breast.
Though there is no developing of the milk-producing breast in males, their breast can still develop cancer. It is one of the rare cancers in men and mostly occurs in late stages of life.
Risk Factors Leading to Breast Cancer in Men:
For every disease, there are some notorious factors which enhance the chances of developing the disease. Likewise, for male breast cancer, there are a few risk factors as well.
Generally, men do not get screened for male breast cancer as they do not think of the possibility to develop it. For this, it is necessary to comprehend the risk factors which cause breast cancer in men. Some of the risk factors which may lead to male breast cancer are as follow:
- Aging – With the advancement of age, the chances of getting a disease or progression of it increases. Men who are older in age are suffer from male breast cancer more as compared to younger men. On an average, men are diagnosed with this rare cancer at age 68.
- Inherited Gene Mutation –With the defect in the gene, the chances of developing cancer increase. Having mutation in the BRCA2 gene increases the rate of risk, about 6 in 100, while the mutation in BRCA1 gene shows a lower risk of 1 in 100.
- Alcohol Intake – Reduce your alcohol intake to keep yourself safe from this risk factor. It may leads to liver disease, poor health condition and also increases the risk rate of male breast cancer.
- Hepatic Disease – Your liver plays a major role in the metabolism of sex hormones. The severe liver diseases of men such as cirrhosis results in lowering the androgen levels and enhances the estrogen level. Due to this, the chances for gynecomastia and breast cancer increases.
- Radiation Exposure – Males who get any sort of radiation treatment on his chest, such as for treating lymphoma on the chest, are at higher risk of getting male breast cancer.
- Klinefelter Syndrome – This congenital condition is characterized by having one Y chromosome and 2 or sometimes more X chromosomes in the men. Normally, males have one Y and one X chromosome, but in Klinefelter syndrome, there is more than one X chromosome present in their body. This syndrome affects 1 out of 1000 men and develops breast cancer in them.
- Obesity – According to studies, the female breast cancer chances are increased with obesity due to estrogen hormone. It can also be a factor in obese men too for developing this cancer.
- Family History – If any family members suffered from breast cancer, then the risk of developing the cancer increases in other family members as well. About 1 out of 5 males diagnosed with breast cancer have a close relative with cancer.
- Certain Occupations – The persistent exposure to excess heat enhances the chances of developing breast cancer. Males working at such places like in steel mills are at higher risk.
Signs and Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer:
Males exhibit the same symptoms, which a female has in breast cancer such as the formation of lump. Upon noticing any unusual change in your breast, immediately visit the doctor as it would lead to the diagnosis at the initial stage and the survival rate would be increased as well. The signs and symptoms of this rare cancer are given as below:
- Discharge from nipple
- Painless lump in breast tissue
- Any sort of change in your breast skin covering such as scaling, puckering, redness or dimpling
- Changes in nipple such as nipple turning inward, scaling or redness
Methods of Diagnosing the Breast Cancer in Men:
In order to diagnose the breast cancer in men, your medical doctor may suggest you go through the following tests or procedures. Diagnosis at initial stage of breast cancer and its prompt intervention helps treating the cancer better. The diagnostic tests are as follows:
- Imaging Tests – Imaging tests detect the presence of suspicious masses in the breast by using ultrasound or mammogram.
- Clinical Breast Exam – It involves the physical exam of the breast and the surrounding area by the use of doctor’s fingertip. In this way, the physician accesses the lump thickness, size, and closeness of lump to muscles and skin.
- Biopsy – In biopsy, the breast tissue is removed by inserting a fine needle into the breast. This breast tissue is taken to the laboratory for analysis. The result of the laboratory test tells whether the person is suffering from cancer or not. Also, if cancer is present, what is the stage of cancer?
Types of Male Breast Cancer:
Based on microscopic examination, breast cancer in men can be categorized into various types. The single breast cancer may be a combination of these different types. Sometimes, it can be a mixture of in situ and invasive cancer. Also, the cancerous cells do not form a lump in some cases of breast cancer.
Breast cancer can also be categorized on the basis of proteins which are present on or in the cancerous cells.
The major types of breast cancer in men are:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ
- Infiltrating ductal carcinoma
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Paget disease of the nipple
Is Breast Cancer Contagious?
There is a general perception that the person suffering from breast cancer can transmit it to others. Some people take this myth so serious that they isolate the diseased person in order to keep themselves safe from the breast cancer. It is necessary to know that the breast cancer is not contagious. The person having male breast cancer cannot transfer it to the surrounding people. Also, it is not caused by sharing things such as food items, deodorants, clothes etc.
Treatment of Male Breast Cancer:
Men who are diagnosed with breast cancer have to undergo treatment in order to get rid of this cancer. The favorable treatment is dependent on several factors, like the location and size of the tumor, results of laboratory tests and stage of cancer.
Doctors choose the treatment procedure to be adopted, for the male breast cancer, based on their experience, and the nature and stage of cancer. It is necessary to discuss with your medical doctor about the treatment protocols and their possible side effects. The various treatment options available for the male breast cancer are mentioned below:
Surgery is performed in order to remove the tumor of the male breast. This procedure is called mastectomy. If the size of the male breast is small, then a rare type of breast-conserving surgery is performed which is called Lumpectomy.
- Radiation Therapy:
After the surgery, some men can be given the radiation therapy too. It is dependent on the stage of cancer.
- Hormonal Therapy:
Many of the male breast cancer is hormone receptor positive. These men are treated with tamoxifen, which is basically hormonal therapy. The drug is to be taken orally in the form of a pill for 5 to 10 years daily. Hormonal therapy greatly increases the survival rates.
- Chemotherapy and Targeted Therapy:
Men suffering from hormone receptor-negative breast cancer are treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is also given before tamoxifen therapy, in case of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. The combination of chemotherapy along with trastuzumab (Herceptin) is used for treating the men who are suffering from HER2-positive breast cancers.
Breast cancer not only affects women, but also men. The incidence of breast cancer in men is considerably low. However, men should be vigilant for any abnormal changes in the breast and the symptoms related to breast cancer, in order to diagnose the cancer at an early stage. Treatment by your medical doctor, at early stages of breast cancer, is easier and also gives better results.