With the month of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we tend to see lots of specials on TV, on the news, radio, or even at local events talking about the importance of awareness. We hear statistics and figures on women, the likelihood for developing Breast Cancer, the prognosis, even new research and rugs that have been recently approved for use in the medical field. We learn about the importance of early screening and detection, and the annual push to get your mammograms done.
Yet there is one thing that we forget to talk about, or maybe it is too taboo to talk about in plain sight for everyone to read and learn about, Male Breast Cancer. That’s right, its not just a disease that affects women, but men can develop the disease too. In fact, we all hear about the genetic disposition that occurs in about 10% of all women diagnosed with Breast Cancer, the expression of BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes. Men can carry this gene as well, and if they do, their chances for developing Breast Cancer can be just as high as women.
In the US there have been approximately 2030 cases of Male Breast Cancer. Of those 2030 cases, there have been about 450 deaths as well, this is according to the NCI data. (NCI:MEN) Of course, this only makes up about 1% of all cases of Breast Cancer, but yet, it is still important for us to realize that this disease can strike men as well.
Typically this type of Breast Cancer will develop in men around the ages of 60 and 70. Some of the signs and symptoms are much like that in women. It is important for men to think about noticing changes in their breasts, or if it is safer to say, Pecs, but to notice any slight changes. Men will typically notice a lump just like a woman does in Female Breast Cancer.
Another common change is something that we call: Gynecomastia.
This refers to the increase in the amount of Breast Tissue present in a male. This does not necessarily mean that it increases your risk for developing breast cancer. It does however represent that there is an increase in the amount of Estrogen that is present in a man’s body. As we have learned from some of my other articles, an increase in Estrogen in the body may lead to someone developing Breast Cancer. This holds true for men as well.
If Breast Cancer happens to be discovered in a male, then he should undergo similar testing that a female would go through as well. This would include a physical exam by a physician to see if there is any palpable lump noticed in the Breast Tissue. If it happens to be something of concern, then a man should also be ordered to have a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy as well to give confirmation that it is in fact Breast Cancer, and what stage of cancer it is.
Some other important factors to keep in mind in regards to Male Breast Cancer: If a man is in a family that happens to have a high number of relatives that have developed Breast Cancer, of if they know that their family is a carrier of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, that they may want to consider a consultation with a medical professional that specializes in Genetics. This will help to see if one is at an increase risk for developing Breast Cancer, or for that matter, any other type of cancer. Men with a known family history of Breast Cancer and a mutation in the BRCA genes are typically also at an increase risk for developing Prostate Cancer as well.
Other risk factors for men include increased levels of Estrogen, alcohol use, obesity, cirrhosis of the liver, and Klinefelter Syndrome. A history of Radiation Therapy to the chest may also increase the chances for a male developing Breast Cancer as well.
In the US, the chances for Breast Cancer developing in African American Men is slightly higher then it is in Caucasian Males. Internationally, there is a high incidence for Male Breast Cancer in countries such as Uganda and Zambia. In contrast, in Asian Countries, there seems to be the lowest number of Male Breast Cancer Cases.
Due to the lack in numbers of men with Breast Cancer it has been hard for the medical community to conclude as to what all of the risk factors are, and what the cause has been for the slight and steady increase that has been seen over the last couple of years. Since the numbers are so small, most of the research has been conducted on small retrospective cases or from extrapolating data from Female Breast Cancer studies. Due to this factor, it is also unrealistic for any one institution to conduct a prospective clinical trial into the best treatment option for men with Breast Cancer.
The treatment option of choice for most men with Breast Cancer has been mastectomy.
As always, if you or a loved one have any other questions, comments, or concerns; if you would like more information in regards to another cancer related topic, please contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or CANCERGEEK@CANCERGEEK.COM