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Male Breast Cancer

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While most common in women, breast cancer also affects men. Because men have breast tissue, the cells of the breast can form into a group of cancer cells, or a malignant tumor. Males are less likely to develop breast cancer than females because breast ducts are less developed in men, and they have less of the female hormones that impact breast cell growth. Cancer cells in the breast can spread to the lymph nodes via the lymphatic vessels and become increasingly dangerous. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma is the most common form of breast cancer found in men.

Statistics

  • In 2013 there will be an estimated 2,240 new cases of invasive male breast cancer diagnosed, and an estimated 410 men will die of the disease in the United States.
  • In Texas, an estimated 125 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and an estimated 22 males will die due to the disease.
  • Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than in men.
  • About one in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime.
  • The outlook for survival from breast cancer in men and women is about the same. Recent studies have overturned the previous conviction that the outlook was worse for men.
  • One out of five men diagnosed with breast cancer will have a family member who has breast cancer.
  • Men with a mutation of the BRCA-2 gene have a lifetime breast cancer risk of 6 percent. The BRCA-1 gene in men is responsible for a 1 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer.

Risk Factors

  • Age: As men age, their risk of developing breast cancer increases, with most male breast cancers detected between 60-70 years old.
  • Radiation: Men who have been treated with radiation around the chest area have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Family History: Men with close blood relatives who have breast cancer or who have a mutation of the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene face an increased risk. Men should consider genetic testing to determine if they have the gene mutation, which could impact their risk both as a patient and carrier.
  • Estrogen: Males with higher levels of estrogen due to diseases, such as the genetic disorder Klinefelter syndrome, have an increased risk. Also, men taking estrogen-related drugs for hormone therapy or sex changes have increased risk.
  • Alcohol: Men who are heavy drinkers face an increased risk because alcohol toxicity causes liver diseases, like cirrhosis, which can cause higher estrogen levels.
  • Obesity: Just like with women, obesity can contribute to breast cancer in men. Obese men have higher levels of estrogen because fat cells convert male hormones known as androgens to estrogen.

Symptoms

As with women, early detection of breast cancer is crucial to treatment and survival. Men with a family history, such as immediate family members with breast cancer or a BRCA-2 mutation, should be screened. Signs to look for include:

  • Redness on the skin and around the nipple
  • A nipple that turns inward
  • Nipple discharge
  • A lump or swelling in the chest area, typically without pain
  • Puckering or dimpling skin

Treatment Options

Treating breast cancer in men is similar to treating women with the disease. Treatment options can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or bone-directed therapy. A combination of treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and Texas Cancer Registry