Breast cancer is generally thought of as a disease that only affects women, but it’s not. Men can get breast cancer too. In the United States, roughly 1 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in men. While the chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer as a male are rare, it does unfortunately happen.
In fact, around 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will involve men each year. While these cases may be small in comparison to women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, they are numerous enough for men to take note and to be aware of the warning signs, as well as how to check and diagnose this cancer.
What are the Symptoms?
Male breast cancer is most common in older men, but it can also affect men at any age. Here are some symptoms of male breast cancer:
An enlargement of both breasts, sometimes on one side, may also be due to gynecomastia, which is a common non-cancerous breast disorder that increases the size of the male breast tissue, which may be related to an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone, or other health issues. In most cases, gynecomastia is not a serious problem, but it may cause some physical and mental discomfort.
Types of Male Breast Cancer
Just as for women, there are several types of male breast cancer, some are not so common.
While researchers do not completely understand the causes of breast cancer in men, there are several factors which can increase the risk of getting it.
Diagnosing Male Breast Cancer
A physician will want to do a thorough clinical breast examination, locating any lumps or suspicious areas, and also get a better understanding of the patient’s family medical history. Should the patient have a family history with breast cancer and also provide symptoms that suggest this disease is present, there are several tests that may be used.
Breast Cancer Treatments
Treatments for male breast cancer are similar to treatments for women with breast cancer. Determining a treatment will involve considering several factors, such as the patient’s age, the stage of their cancer, their overall health and what preferences the patient may prefer. Treatments for men generally include surgery and may involve other treatments.
As with any type of cancer treatment, certain side effects may be involved. Your cancer care team will provide you with information about possible side effects for each type of treatment. It is important to let your team know about any side effects you may experience, such as those from chemotherapy, as there are ways to help ease the patient’s symptoms.
As is the case for women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, the successful treatment for this disease in men improves with early detection. Breast cancer in men is often diagnosed at a later stage. Perhaps it’s because some men may be embarrassed about a change in their breast or chest area and put off seeing a health provider.
Because the prognosis improves the sooner it can be diagnosed, it’s important for men to be aware of breast cancer for themselves and to know what symptoms to look for. If there are symptoms or changes in the breast, don’t delay in having your physician check it out. Survival is highest when breast cancer is found early.