There are many people -- male and female -- who are completely unaware that men are susceptible to breast cancer. With preventative mammograms and messaging largely geared toward women, men may not even think about the breast cancer risk to themselves.
Although less prevalent among men, breast cancer is not exclusive to women. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in men each year, and approximately 450 men die from breast cancer annually. Male breast cancers account for approximately 1 percent of all breast cancer cases. The Canadian Cancer Society reports that less than one percent of Canadian men develop breast cancer, and men over the age of 60 are most likely to be diagnosed.
To understand how men get breast cancer one must to know about the physical makeup of the male body. Like women, men have breast tissue. Before boys or girls enter puberty, they have similar breast structures, including breast tissue and a few ducts under the nipple and areola. During puberty, female hormones further develop the milk ducts and lobules, or milk-producing glands. For males, testosterone levels increase during puberty, stalling further growth of breast tissue. However, what was already there remains, and in that tissue, cancerous cells can grow and multiply. There also are lymph nodes in the breast region and under the arms. Cancer cells can travel through the lymph nodes to other areas of the body.
Because men have considerably less breast tissue than women, diagnosis of cancer can be easier. A lump in the breast is more noticeable on a man than on a woman. The American Cancer Society also lists a few other symptoms that could be indicative of breast cancer:
* lumps in the nipples or chest muscle.
* nipples turning inward.
* skin dimpling or puckering around the nipple.
* redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin.
* discharge from the nipple.
Benign growths can be mistaken for breast cancer. Also, men can have a condition called gynecomastia, which is a noncancerous breast tissue growth that may be mistaken for cancer. If any symptoms are present, they should be brought to the attention of a doctor for further investigation.
If it is breast cancer, treatment methods are largely the same among men and women. A combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery may be recommended depending on the stage and positioning of the cancerous tumors.
Although it is rare, breast cancer does occur in men. Therefore, guys should be aware of their bodies and the breast area and be on the lookout for any changes that could lead to problems.