Male breast cancer seems impossible, doesn’t it? It is often thought of as a women-specific disease. Since men do not have breasts, the likelihood of them developing breast cancer is often overlooked. While male breast cancer is rare as it accounts for only one percent of all cases reported, it is still a health risk. The lack of awareness about the incidence of male breast cancer further compounds the problem. As most men do not worry about something being amiss with their virtually non-existent breasts, the concept of self-examination is unheard of, which often leads to a delayed diagnosis. Besides, the small amount of breast tissue in male bodies makes early detection of these cancers harder and increases the risk of malignancy spreading to the surrounding body tissues.
In the wake of these facts, debunking the myths around male breast cancer becomes even more imperative. Here’s what you need to know about this rare condition:
How does male breast cancer develop?
Men do not have breasts, then how is it possible to develop cancer in an organ that does not even exist – that is the first question that comes to mind when the possibility of breast cancer in men is mentioned.
While it is true that men do not have breasts in the conventional sense, they do have some amount of breast tissue. The breast tissue in a man’s body is comparable to that of young girls before they hit puberty. In women, the breast tissue grows owing to hormonal changes, but in the case of men, it doesn’t.
Be that as it may, it’s still breast tissue, which means men too are at risk of developing malignant growth in this area.
Incidence of Male Breast Cancer
As mentioned before, the likelihood of a man developing breast cancer is a lot less than a woman. The chances of men under 35 years of age developing breast cancer are minimal. The risk grows with age, and most breast cancers in men are reported between ages 60 to 70. Since there is often a delay in diagnosis, the possibility that cancer has been sitting around for some time before it is detected cannot be ruled out. Like all other forms of cancer, the exact cause of male breast cancer remains elusive. However, some of the identified risk factors include:
- History of breast cancer in the family
- Chest exposure to radiation
- Drugs or hormone treatment leading to breast enlargement
- Klinefelter’s Syndrome, a rare genetic condition
- Underlying medical conditions such as liver cirrhosis, testicular injury, or diseases like mumps orchitis
- Consumption of Estrogen
Potential Signs of Male Breast Cancer
– Finding a lump or a swelling which may be painless
– Dimpling or puckering of the skin around the breast region
– Nipples turning inwards or retracted
– The scaly skin around the breast and redness
– Some discharge from the nipples
At times this type of cancer spreads to the lymph nodes under the arms or even around the collarbone region. It occurs as swelling or lump. This may happen even before a tumor in the breast is found which is large enough to be noticed or felt.
However, not all of these changes may indicate male breast cancer. But if these changes do occur, one should consult their doctor.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Male Breast Cancer
Male breast cancer signs or the breast cancer presents the same symptoms in men as women, and the most telling sign is a lump in the chest. Many a time, men may not notice these unusual growths until they develop more alarming symptoms like bleeding from the nipples, which is often a sign that cancer has spread.
Like in women, male breast cancer is diagnosed through tests such as mammography and biopsy, besides physical examination. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, or biological therapy may be advised.
Even though male breast cancer is rare, it doesn’t hurt to keep a vigilant eye on any unnatural developments in the body. Timely detection is often the best cure when it comes to cancer, as the odds of taming the growth of malignant cells and recovery are much higher in the initial stages.