Breast tissue is present in men too. The appearance of breasts in men is similar to that of a girl before adolescence.
Breast cancer is commonly seen in women, but there are chances of it occurring in men too.
Men have a small amount of breast tissue which can lead to the development of breast cancer. It is more common in older men but may occur in men of any age group. Male breast cancer has a reasonable possibility of cure when diagnosed in the early stages.
The main problem associated with breast cancer in men is that it’s usually diagnosed in the later stages of cancer, compared to women. A likely reason behind this is that men rarely get suspicious of something wrong in their breast area.
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Symptoms of breast cancer in men may appear differently in every individual. Most of the symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to that of breast cancer in women. Being aware of the signs and symptoms can help with early diagnosis of breast cancer and effective treatment and cure.
Some of the symptoms of male breast cancer include:
- A painless lump in the breast tissue
- Thickening of the breast area
- Changes in the area surrounding the breast such as puckering, scaling or redness
- Liquid discharge from the nipples
- Nipple turning inwards
- Scaling or redness in nipple
Most of the time, men delay visiting a doctor unless the symptoms start getting worse. In such cases, breast cancer usually spreads.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, visit your nearest doctor immediately. It is better to get checked earlier than to wait until the symptoms start getting worse.
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer in Men
Factors that may increase the risk of developing breast cancer in men may vary from that of women. Some of the factors associated with male breast cancer are:
Obesity affects health in both men and women in several ways. One of them being increased levels of production of the hormone estrogen in the body, which leads to the development of breast cancer.
- Liver Disease
Cirrhosis – late stages of fibrosis (scarring) in the liver – increases the levels of female hormones and decreases male hormones in men, putting them at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Family History
If a close relative or someone from your family has had breast cancer, you are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer too.
- Testicular Surgery or Diseases
Having prior surgeries of testicles or diseases related to it may also increase your risk of breast cancer.
Men have XY sex chromosomes. In this genetic syndrome, they are born with an extra X chromosome (XXX Syndrome) – which causes abnormal development of the testicles. It also produces a lesser amount of androgens (male hormones) and an excessive amount of female hormones (estrogen).
An increased amount of the female hormone – estrogen causes some men to develop breast cancer.
Treatment For Breast Cancer:
The treatment options for breast cancer in men are similar to that of women. After complete diagnosis of breast cancer, your doctor will come up with a treatment plan considering several things such as your age, the stage of cancer, and your health.
The most common form of treatment is surgery, but there are several other options as well.
There are mainly two procedures that are performed under surgery – mastectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy.
The breast tissue, along with the nipple and areola, is removed surgically.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
The doctor will identify the lymph nodes where cancer would spread first. These lymph nodes will then be taken out for a biopsy and checked whether cancer has spread or not. If no cancer cells are found in those lymph nodes, it means that cancer has not spread beyond the breast tissue.
If cancer cells are found, then more lymph nodes are taken out for a biopsy and analysis.
A majority of the cases have hormone-sensitive cancer cells. The hormone – estrogen – helps these cancer cells to spread. Hormone therapy uses the medication tamoxifen – it blocks estrogen from entering the cancer cells.
As 90% of cases of male breast cancers have hormone receptors, it has been observed that men respond to hormone therapy much faster and better than most women.
Radiation therapy destroys cancer cells using high-energy beam rays—the energy beam points at the area where there may be cancer cells. In men, this therapy is usually used after surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells, if any, in areas such as armpits or chest muscles.
It is a newer form of treatment for breast cancer. It involves targeting proteins that lead to cancer due to genetic changes.
In some cases, breast cancer has a protein – HER2 – on the surface of cancer cells. Target therapy uses drugs such as trastuzumab (Herceptin) to target the protein and reduce the growth of cancer.
Medications are used to destroy the cancer cells in the breast tissue. The medications are taken in the form of pills, or administered intravenously – through veins – or sometimes both.
This form of treatment is effective in advanced cases of male breast cancer as well. Some side effects of chemotherapy in men include:
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising
- Increased risk of infection
Precautions for Breast Cancer:
Early diagnosis of breast cancer can help prevent it from spreading further. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, you should regularly get yourself checked for symptoms and signs. A genetic test may be helpful in such situations.
Some of the other factors that help prevent the development of male breast cancer include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Keeping a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes
- Regular Health checkups after testicular diseases or surgery