While most people think of breast cancer, they automatically associate it with females. While the condition is almost always found in women, there are a few thousand men a year that get breast cancer, and it can be as serious or more than it is for women.
Characteristics of Male Breast Cancer
As it happens for females, male breast cancer is influenced by both environmental factors and also genetic factors. However, there is a greater risk, because men are not routinely checked for breast cancer and may be at a more advanced stage. Also, male breast cancer is often characterized by positive lymph nodes. The most common characteristic is a palpable breast mass. Also, men are much more likely to present with nipple discharge than women are.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Men
Age: The risk of breast cancer increases the older a person is. On average, if a man does have breast cancer, it will be in his late sixties.
Family History or Gene Mutations: Men that have a family history of breast cancer have a much greater chance of getting it out. In fact, one-fifth of men that get the disease have a close female relative with it as well. Also, mutations in the BRCA2 gene will sometimes result in breast cancer in men, with one out of ten cases from this condition.
Congenital Conditions: Klinefelter’s syndrome is a condition that about one out of every thousand men has from birth, where the man has a Y chromosome and two or more X chromosomes, rather than one. This results in smaller testicles, infertility and lower levels of male hormones, and increased estrogen as well. This condition puts them at a much higher risk for breast cancer.
Radiation: Any men who have been treated with radiation, such as for another form of cancer, or exposed to it, are at risk for developing breast cancer.
Alcohol and Liver Disease: Those men who are heavy drinkers, or who have liver disease from some other cause rather than drinking, have an increased risk for breast cancer. Those who have liver disease produce a lower amount of male hormones, and these men have higher estrogen levels.
Men With High Levels Of Estrogen: Men who have high levels of estrogen due to systemic condition like Klineflelter’s syndrome or received estrogen treatments such as for prostate cancer, or men who are receiving the hormone as part of a gender reassignment have also a higher risk for breast cancer. However, if receiving the estrogen for prostate cancer, the treatments should not stop, because the risk is minor compared to the benefit for this condition.
Obesity: Men who are obese are at an increased risk for breast cancer, as are women who are obese, particularly those who become obese late in life.
Testicular Conditions: Men who have a testicle that did not drop, or have had their testicles surgically removed may have greater breast cancer risk.
Occupations: Certain occupations, like working in a steel mill or other hot environment may have a link to men with breast cancer.
Causes of Male Breast Cancer
The short answer to what causes breast cancer is men isn’t really known. Everyone has a small amount of breast tissue, which contains the glands that produce milk, and is one of the key locations for breast cancer, either in the lobules or in the ducts. Doctors do know that breast cancer in men happens when there is an abnormal growth of breast cells, which divide rapidly and eventually may form a tumor and even spread to other areas.
Symptoms of Men’s Breast Cancer
- A lump, or a swollen area that is usually not painful
- Puckering or dimpling of the skin
- Inward turning of the nipple
- Scaling of the nipple or skin of the breast, or redness
- Discharge from the nipple
Prevention of Men’s Breast Cancer
There are a couple of ways that men can reduce their risk of breast cancer.
- The first is by reducing their intake of alcohol to minimal amounts, or none at all. This means one or two drinks a day maximum.
- Also, make sure that you are the proper weight, and you are exercising at least a couple of hours a week. With your doctor you should do a plan to lose weight if you are already overweight.
Treatment for Breast Cancer in Men
The treatment for male breast cancer is just like any other type of cancer, with the treatment depending upon the stage, your personal medical history, the location and your own preference. Surgery is often the most common treatment, to remove the cancerous cells, and other treatments include radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
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