“I have WHAT kind of cancer?”
Such is the reaction that many men have to being told they have breast cancer. Any cancer diagnosis is a shock; but finding out you have a kind you never thought you could get makes it even harder to accept.
All people, whether male or female, are born with some breast cells and tissue. Even though males do not develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. Though, male breast cancer is very rare, it is just as serious as that which women experience.
The American Cancer Society estimates that around 2,500 new cases of breast cancer in men are reported every year, claiming the lives of 460 men.
Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer. This assumption is the main reason for the delay in seeking treatment.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to women,
with the majority of men being diagnosed over the age of 50:
A lump or swelling in the breast.
Redness or flaky skin in the breast.
Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
What are the risk factors?
Several factors can increase a man’s chance of getting breast cancer. Having risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer.
Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers are found after age 50.
Overweight and obesity. Older men who are overweight or have obesity have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than men at a normal weight.
Liver disease. Cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver can lower androgen levels and raise oestrogen levels in men, increasing the risk of breast cancer.
Genetic mutations. Inherited changes (mutations) in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, increase breast cancer risk. In men, mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can also increase the risk of high-grade prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Family history of breast cancer. A man’s risk for breast cancer is higher if a close family member has had breast cancer.
Conditions that affect the testicles. Injury to, swelling in, or surgery to remove the testicles can increase breast cancer risk.
Radiation therapy treatment. Men who had radiation therapy to the chest have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
Hormone therapy treatment. Drugs containing oestrogen (a hormone that helps develop and maintain female sex characteristics), which were used to treat prostate cancer in the past, increase men’s breast cancer risk.
Klinefelter syndrome. This is a rare genetic condition in which a male has an extra X chromosome. This can lead to the body making higher levels of oestrogen and lower levels of androgens (hormones that help develop and maintain male sex characteristics).
Let’s check it out, instead of toughing it out!
For all the physical problems posed by breast cancer in men, it may be a psychological trait that makes the condition especially dangerous. The tendency of some males to want to “tough it out,” or flat-out ignore signs of an underlying medical condition can prove deadly in the case of cancer.
In one study by Harvard Health, researchers found that men waited about 19 months to seek medical care upon discovering initial symptoms. We can safely assume that many of the men who put off medical treatment for such a long period don’t think of their condition as particularly dangerous. Moreover, we may assume that the very strong cultural undertone of breast cancer as a “women’s issue” contributes to this problem.
The bottom line: breast cancer is a dangerous disease and one that can spread quickly without intervention. No matter your gender, if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, seek medical attention right away. If you’re one of those “No big deal” guys, swallow your pride and schedule an appointment with your doctor.
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