It’s rare for men to get breast cancer, but still possible. About 1 about of every 100 breast cancer patients in the US are men. Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. Even though men’s chests look significantly different from women’s, they still have breast tissue, and can develop cancerous tumors.
What Factors Increase Your Risk for Breast Cancer?
- Age – the risk for breast cancer increases as you age. Most patients are diagnosed with breast cancer after age 50.
- Genetics – inherited genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase your risk of breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. A history of breast cancer in your close family members can also increase that chance.
- Radiation therapy treatment – men who have had radiation therapy to the chest area have an increased risk.
- Hormone therapy treatment – medications that contain estrogen were once used to treat prostate cancer, although they aren’t any longer. A history of taking these medications can increase your risk.
- Klinefelter syndrome – this is a rare genetic condition where a man has an extra x chromosome. This causes higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens (a hormone that helps men develop and maintain male sex characteristics).
- Conditions of the testes – surgery, swelling or injury to the testicles can increase your risk of breast cancer.
- Liver Cirrhosis – Cirrhosis is the medical term for scarring on your liver, which can, like Klinefelter syndrome, cause lower androgen levels and higher estrogen levels in the male body.
- Weight and obesity – men who are overweight or obese, and especially older men with these body conditions, have a higher risk than men who are at a healthier weight.
How to Detect Breast Cancer
- Just as in women, breast cancer can be felt as a lump in the breast tissue.
- Other symptoms include: swelling of the breast tissue, redness or flaky skin on the breast, irritation or dimpling of the skin, nipple discharge, and inversion of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- When a lump is found, your doctor will perform biopsies, to determine if the lump is cancerous.
What Can I Do to Reduce my Risk?
If several close family members have had breast or ovarian cancer, or you know there is a history of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, you should share this with your doctor at your next appointment.
Keeping your weight healthy, exercising regularly and protecting your liver can lower your risk of breast cancer.
What is the Treatment for Breast Cancer?
The treatment for breast cancer is the same for men as it is for women – it depends on how big the tumor is and how far in the body it has spread. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy are all options you may have, again depending on your individual circumstances.
Survival chances for men with breast cancer are about the same as women, however men tend to find their cancer at a more advanced stage. The best chance of surviving cancer depends on catching it in an early phase, so it’s important to inform your doctor if you have risk factors or have noticed symptoms.