Breast cancer in men is rare, but clinical studies show it increased by 25 percent over the 25 years from 1973 to 1998. On average, one man will be diagnosed with breast cancer for every hundred women diagnosed.
This statistical rise may be due to lifestyle or environmental factors, or it may be due to an increase in breast cancer awareness.
If you notice any persistent changes to your breasts, chest or axillary lymph nodes, contact your doctor. Signs to watch for include:
- A lump or mass in the breast.
- An inverted (inside out) nipple.
- Spontaneous nipple discharge (bloody or clear).
- Skin change or irritation of the nipple and areola.
- Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm.
- Nipple pain.
It’s important to note that gynecomastia, which means enlargement of both breasts, is usually not cancer. Sometimes the breasts can become quite large. Breast enlargement can be caused by medications, weight gain, and heavy alcohol consumption or marijuana use.
Awareness is key. Men must know a lump or change in their breast area needs to be evaluated by a breast care specialist. A small study on breast cancer in men found the average time between first symptom and diagnosis was 19 months. This delay in recognizing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer is probably because men don’t expect to be personally affected by breast cancer, so there is little to no early detection.
In every stage, men experience successful breast cancer treatment. The challenge is getting them to seek medical care when an abnormality is identified. Earlier diagnosis could make a life-saving difference. With more public awareness, men will learn that, just like women, they need to see a doctor right away if they detect any persistent changes to their breasts – even if they have no family history of breast cancer.
Treating breast cancer in men
Breast cancer treatment for men and women is very similar, involving a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapy based on the tumor characteristics. The only discernible difference is breast conservation, or preserving the breast, is difficult in men as they typically have very little native breast tissue.
BreastCancer.org, one of the world’s leading informational resources for breast cancer, will help guide you or your loved one as you move forward. Visit the page on breast cancer in men at www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/types/male_bc/treatment.
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