Not only is it possible for men to get breast cancer, but experts say instances of this happening are on the rise. While it’s most common in women, one out of every 100 cases of breast cancer in the U.S. is diagnosed in a male, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There will be an estimated 2,700 new cases in men this year, which is a number going up.
All people whether they’re male or female, are born with some breast cells and tissue. Men’s breasts don’t produce milk but can still develop cancer in rare circumstances.
There was an increase in men with breast cancer in particular because of 9/11. Doctors say that 9/11 first responders’ exposure to toxins and chemicals put them at greater risk of breast cancer.
The following are some of the things to know about male breast cancer.
What Types Affect Men?
According to the CDC, the types of breast cancer affecting men are the same as what affects women. These cancer types include:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma, which begins in the breast ducts and spreads from those ducts.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma, which spreads from lobules to other breast tissue and potentially to other body parts.
- Ductal carcinoma in situ, in which cancer cells are in the lining of the breast ducts, but they haven’t gone beyond the lining.
Symptoms of breast cancer in men include:
- A lump or swelling
- Flaky skin or redness on the breast
- Dimpling of breast skin or irritation
- Discharge from the nipple
- Pulling in of the nipple
- Pain in the nipple area
In men, most frequently, cancer of the breast is detected as a hard lump located under the nipple. Men tend to have a higher death rate than women, mainly because they’re unlikely to assume a lump is cancer and have a treatment delay as a result.
Most men diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50. Almost all male breast cancer is estrogen receptor-positive, and that means treatment might include hormonal therapy.
In many cases, the risk factors in men for developing breast cancer are similar to female risk factors.
Inherited genes are one such risk factor. Some men inherit mutated genes from their parents that could put them at greater risk. Mutations in a gene called BRCA2 especially increase male risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Aging is another risk factor, which is true for women as well. The average age of men diagnosed with breast cancer is around 68.
High estrogen levels can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer in the breast. Men may have elevated estrogen for several reasons, including being overweight and taking hormonal medicines. Exposure to estrogens in your environment, such as consuming meat raised with hormones and being a heavy alcohol user, can increase estrogen.
If you have liver disease, it can lower your levels of male hormones, known as androgens, and raise your estrogen levels. That can then increase the chances of developing non-cancerous breast tissue growth, known as gynecomastia and breast cancer.
Klinefelter syndrome means you have lower levels of male hormones and higher levels of female hormones, which again, can raise the likelihood of breast cancer occurring. Klinefelter is present at birth, and men with this syndrome will have more than one X chromosome, whereas men typically will have one X and one Y chromosome.
If you’ve been exposed to radiation to the chest, such as a treatment for lymphoma, that also becomes a risk factor.
Having testicle disease or surgery is linked to greater risk. For example, having inflamed testicles, known as orchitis, can increase the risk of male breast cancer.
How Is it Treated?
Treatment for breast cancer in men is often the same as the options for women. After a diagnosis is made, your doctor will work to establish the stage of cancer.
Treatment may include surgery to remove all breast tissue, which is known as a mastectomy. Your doctor might also remove a few of your lymph nodes to test them for cancerous cells.
Radiation therapy can be used after surgery to help remove any remaining cancer cells.
Many men with breast cancer have hormone-sensitive tumors, so they require hormones to grow. If that’s the case, hormone therapy may be part of treatment.
Finally, chemotherapy uses medicine to destroy cancer cells, and chemo might be recommended after surgery to eliminate cancer cells that spread outside the breast.