Understanding Male Breast Cancer – Some Basics On The Disease

The  abnormal development of cells in the breast causes breast cancer. Male breast cancer is rare as compared to female breast cancer and accounts for less than 1% of all breast cancers worldwide. Breast cancer is found to develop in men when they are in their sixties and seventies.

male breast cancer

A lump in the breast is the most common sign of male breast cancer.

Types Of Male Breast Cancer

There are 5 different types of breast cancer in men. They are:

  1. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ – It is a form of cancer that develops in the lining of a duct.
  2. Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma - This form of cancer develops in the cells lining the ducts and it spreads to other parts of the breast. It is the most common type of breast cancer in men.
  3. Inflammatory Breast Cancer - In this type of cancer, the skin of the breast becomes red. The breast swells up and also becomes warmer than the normal.
  4. Paget’s Disease Of The Nipple – The tumor that develops in the ducts grows onto the nipple surface causing a condition called Paget’s disease of the nipple.
  5. Lobular Carcinoma In Situ - This is a rare form of breast cancer in men, where the cancer develops in the lobes or in the tissue of the breast.

Male Breast Cancer – The Risk Factors Involved

Here are some of the risk factors that cause male breast cancer.

  • About 5 to 10% of male breast cancer is genetically inherited. If any of the women in the family develops breast cancer and has an abnormal BRCA2 gene, then there is risk of a male from the succeeding generation inheriting breast cancer.
  • Men suffering from liver disease or genetic disorders like Klinefelter syndrome have high levels of estrogen, which is found to be one of the risk factors of breast cancer.
  • Radiation exposure also poses a risk of causing breast cancer in men.

Male Breast Cancer - The Signs And Symptoms

Male breast cancer is seen to develop more often in the left breast than in the right. In less than 1% of the cases, the cancer develops in both the breasts. The common signs and male breast cancer symptoms are:

  • A lump in the breast
  • Soreness and painfulness in the nipple
  • A small ring around the nipple and a gradual inversion of the nipple
  • Swollen lymph nodes, which can be felt externally
  • Weight loss, followed by severe weakness

Male Breast Cancer – The Diagnostic Procedures

Here are some of the tests that are commonly used to detect breast cancer in men.

  • Self-Exam

    By physically examining the breast one can identify the presence of a possible lump in the breast. If a lump is found, a doctor must be consulted so that he can evaluate it clinically and advise tests to confirm the presence of breast cancer.

  • Ultrasound Examination

    High energy sound waves are used to photograph different parts of the breast. By observing these photos, the doctor can confirm the presence or absence of breast cancer.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

    Like ultrasound, MRI is also used to create detailed images of different sections of the breast using radio waves. These images are then used to detect cancer in the breast.

  • Biopsy

    A sample is taken from breast lumps or a lymph node by performing biopsy and the cells in it are microscopically examined to detect the presence of cancer in them.

  • Blood Tests

    Several blood tests are done to evaluate breast cancer in men. Some of the parameters that tend to be abnormal in breast cancer cases are blood electrolytes (calcium and potassium), complete blood count, total bilirubin count, and enzymes (ALT and AST).

  • Molecular Tests

    The HER2 gene, estrogen receptors, and the progesterone receptors are assessed in the cancer cells to evaluate the best treatment option for the cancer.

male breast cancer

Male breast cancer treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

Male Breast Cancer – Treatment Measures

The treatment options for male breast cancer are similar to the options available for female breast cancer. Here are some of them:

  • Surgery

    The cancer-affected area in the breast, and sometimes the entire breast, is surgically removed.

  • Chemotherapy

    In chemotherapy, a high dose of chemicals is used to kill the cancer cells and prevent them from spreading to other organs.

  • Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy uses high intensity X-rays to destroy the cancer cells.

  • Hormone Therapy

    Certain drugs are used to inhibit the production of estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that facilitate the growth of cancer cells.

Various other treatment options are tested in clinical trials. Stem cell transplant is one of these other options. While male breast cancer is rare, the seriousness of the disease cannot be ignored. Ensure that you keep an eye out for abnormal growth in the breast regions. If you notice one or more lumps in the breast, or any of the other breast cancer symptoms mentioned above, consult a doctor immediately for timely diagnosis and treatment.


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