You didn't know men could develop breast cancer? You're not alone! Male breast cancer happens in less than 1% of the population. So uncommon, in fact, that many physicians don't have it on their radar either.
About 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society. For men, the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 833.
Because of the rarity, male breast cancer is not always discussed. Why the discrepancy? Well our society doesn't consider men having "breasts," but in fact depending on the various hormones present, a man's breast tissue can be flat or fuller.
Is There A Genetic Link To Male Breast Cancer?
The major cause of male breast cancer is genetic predisposition. About 20% of men who develop breast cancer will have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Additional risk factors for breast cancer in men include:
- Age (65 years and above)
- Heavy alcohol use
- Klinefelter's syndrome (a genetic condition related to high levels of estrogen in the body)
- Liver disease
- Radiation exposure
What Are Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Men?
Some of breast cancer symptoms men may notice are any changes to breast or nipple area such as:
- Lumps in breast tissue
- Discoloration of a portion of the breast
- Dimpling or pulling in of the breast tissue
- Itchy or scaly or discharge from the nipple
- Pulling in of the nipple
There may be other causes for these breast changes, such as benign breast tumors or gynecomastia, but they do warrant further investigation.
How Is Breast Cancer Treated In Men?
The treatment for male breast cancer is similar to how we treat women with breast cancer. A biopsy is necessary to determine what the mass is, along with particular markers that the pathologist will study under the microscope.
If the mass is diagnosed to be a breast cancer, the patient will see a breast surgeon and as a team determine which approach is most appropriate; breast conserving therapy or a mastectomy.
The patient also will see an oncologist to determine if endocrine (anti-hormone) therapy or chemotherapy or radiation therapy is necessary.
What Is The Survival Rate Of Breast Cancer In Men?
Survival rates for men are similar to survival rates for women with breast cancer. Men are often diagnosed at a later stage of cancer, however.
How Can Men Prevent Breast Cancer?
As with women, the best protection from breast cancer for men is early detection. Be aware of your family history of different cancers and follow up with your doctor if you notice anything different with your breast tissue! You are not alone!
By Ann Cuvala, RN
Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator, Franciscan Health Olympia Fields