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Breast Cancer in Men

The guys DO get it

iStock_000029767376_LargeWhen we talk about breast cancer, we invariably think of women. Associating breast cancer with women is not wrong, after all, it is the most common type of cancer affecting women globally. What many people fail to realise, is that men have a small amount of non-functioning breast tissue… and they can develop breast cancer too!

This cancer is characterised by the growth of a malignant tumour in the breast tissue of men. The American Cancer Society estimates that each year, about 1,990 new cases of breast cancer in men will be diagnosed and that breast cancer will cause approximately 480 deaths in men. Even though the percentage of men diagnosed with breast cancer is small, it is often fatal simply because they lack awareness.

Give Me a Sign

Male breast cancer is most common in men over the age of 65, but it can occur at any age. Some of the common signs and symptoms of male breast cancer include:

  • A painless lump or thickening in the breast tissue
  • Changes to the skin covering the breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling
  • The nipple begins to turn inward or discharge seeps from it

Factor This

As in the case of female breast cancer, the exact cause of male breast cancer remains unknown. However, a number of risk factors for male breast cancer have been identified.

  • About 85% of men suffering from breast cancer have oestrogen receptors on their cell membranes. These receptors allow oestrogen molecules to bind to the cancer cells and stimulate cell growth and multiplication.
  • Another cause of male breast cancer is gene mutation. Mutations such as BRAC2 are found in 5% of men with breast cancer.
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome (boys born with higher than normal levels of oestrogen), is another major risk factor for male breast cancer. These men are 20 times more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Evidence also exits that male breast cancer can be hereditary.

Type and Form

Ductal Carcinoma

Also known as ‘intraductal carcinoma’, ductal carcinoma is the most common type of male breast cancer. Ductal carcinoma is a non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer. In this type of cancer, the cells that line the ducts change to resemble cancer cells. Ductal carcinoma accounts for one in ten cases of male breast cancer and is usually curable with surgery.

Lobular Carcinoma

This type of breast cancer starts in the breast lobules and grows into the fatty tissue of the breast. Lobular carcinoma accounts for only 2% of male breast cancers. The incidence of lobular carcinoma in men is rare owing to the lower number of lobules in their breast tissue.

Paget Disease of the Nipple

Just as the name suggests, Paget’s disease starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the nipple. In some cases, breast cancer can form in the milk ducts and spread to the nipple, causing crusty, scaly skin around the nipple.

iStock_000015722485_LargeGame Plan

Clinical breast examination, mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy are some of the tools used for diagnosis of male breast cancer. Based on the type, stage and location of cancer, the treatment plan includes modified radical mastectomy, oestrogen hormone therapy or chemotherapy.

Modified radical mastectomy is usually the first treatment option for male breast cancer. This surgery involves removal of the entire breast and affected lymph nodes in the armpit. Chemotherapy usually follows surgery. This is done in order to prevent the cancer from returning.

In cases where there are oestrogen receptors on the walls of the cancerous cells, oestrogen hormone therapy is widely used. It works by blocking the oestrogen receptors so that oestrogen is unable to enter into cancerous cells.

Good Clean Living

As the old saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” Leading a healthy lifestyle is a good way to help prevent male breast cancer and other serious health conditions. Maintaining a well-balanced diet, getting an adequate amount of sleep, regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation and avoiding unnecessary stress is a good start.

Most importantly, raise awareness and talk about male breast cancer. Remember, early detection can help prevent the spread of cancer. If there is a history of male breast cancer in the family, a person should check regularly for lumps and report any changes to a doctor. Breast cancer, when diagnosed at an early stage, is often treated successfully.

Kavitha Mallavarapu
Posted by ezyhealth on Oct 13 2014. Filed under Medical Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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