Dr. Praveen Kumar Dadireddy

Yes, men can develop breast cancer too, but with a much lower risk compared to women.

Though breast cancer in men is rare, yet it is also a fact that breast cancer would be diagnosed in about 2100 men this year. Though a man’s risk of developing breast cancer is less (about 1 in 1000) and men are about 100 times less likely than women to get breast cancer, if they get it their chances of survival are similar to those of women with the same stage of breast cancer.

Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer

Symptoms

The most common symptom is a lump in the breast tissue (which may or may not be painful). Other symptoms could be nipple discharge or change in the density of breast tissue or overlying skin.

However, male breast cancer is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage when compared to women because men do not watch for lumps in their breast tissue and also delay seeing a doctor when they notice lumps. So, if there is a persistent lump for over two weeks, then they should visit a breast surgeon immediately.

Risk Factors

Male breast cancer is sometimes hereditary, linked to the BRCA2 gene (this gene increases the risk of breast cancer in both men and women). Additionally, consuming more than two drinks of alcohol a day and being obese increases the risk.

Presentation and Treatment

Male breast cancer usually occurs late in life and is most often estrogen-receptor positive, which means it is affected by the hormone estrogen. Most male breast cancer starts close to the nipple and spreads through the fatty tissue of the breast. Eight out of 10 cases of male breast cancer are infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC), which means the cancer begins in the milk ducts (men as well as women have milk ducts, but they are less developed in men) and then spreads to surrounding tissue. If left untreated, the cancer may spread in the body.

However, with surgery and medications, male breast cancer can be treated successfully; it has the same prognosis as that of postmenopausal women’s cancer if we match stage to stage.

Men usually have minimal breast tissue to begin with, so they usually have mastectomies (removal of the entire breast), not lumpectomies (removal of just the lump).

They will then have adjuvant (additional to surgery) therapy to prevent more cancer cells from growing, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy, to prevent the cancer’s return.

The hormone therapy (tamoxifen) is often successful in preventing the recurrence of breast cancer.

Prognosis

The prognosis of male breast cancer varies between individuals and depends on:

How early it was diagnosed.

The stage at which the breast cancer is found.

The type of breast cancer.

The estrogen and progesterone receptors in the tissue.

Whether the cancer is in one or both breasts.

The patient’s age and overall health.

Although it doesn’t happen often, men should be aware that breast cancer could happen to them and they should be breast aware. Knowing what to look for, and seeing a doctor right away if there are any breast changes, can be lifesaving for men as well as women.

Source: Dr. Praveen Kumar Dadireddy ; Chief Breast Oncoplastic Surgeon

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