Fact #: Yes Men Can Get Breast Cancer
Were used to hearing about breast cancer in women. But men can also develop breast cancer, because men and women have the same underlying structures in their breasts.
Before puberty, both males and females have a small amount of breast tissue, including milk ducts underneath the nipple. When women go through puberty they develop many more of these structures, but adult men still have the same number they had before puberty. In men, these structures arent normally functional.
Breast cancer most often begins in these ducts. Cancer develops when duct cells begin to grow uncontrollably, invading surrounding tissue or spreading to other parts of the body. Cancer that begins in skin or tissue that surround organs including in duct cells in the breast is called carcinoma. Carcinomas are by far the most common form of male breast cancer.
Whats The Difference Male Breast Cancer And Female Breast Cancer
Despite outward appearances, breasts in men and women are built very much the same. Human breasts in both sexes have nipples, fatty tissue, breast cells and ducts. Men and women also share some of the same risk factors for breast cancer. Both genders may have inherited mutations in their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that may increase cancer risk. And both genders produce the hormone estrogen, which at certain levels may increase breast cancer risk. So why do so few men get breast cancer?
In general, the incidence of breast cancer in men is far less than in women because although the breast tissue in both are similar, male breast tissue is mainly fat and fibrous tissue called stroma and they have fewer ducts and lobules, says Sramila Aithal, MD, Hematologist & Medical Oncologist at our Philadelphia hospital. When womens breasts mature during puberty, they develop working lobules and milk ducts to produce and carry milk after childbirth. Most breast cancers in women develop in those ducts and lobules. Most men produce far fewer and smaller ducts and may not produce lobules. Inherited gene mutations may increase cancer risk in both sexes, but are likely to affect genders differently. While BRCA mutations significantly increase a mans risk of breast cancer, men with those mutations are at a higher risk of prostate cancer more than breast or other cancers.
How Breast Cancer Spreads
Breast cancer can spread when the cancer cells get into the blood or lymph system and are carried to other parts of the body.
The lymph system is a network of lymph vessels found throughout the body. The lymph vessels carry lymph fluid and connect lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped collections of immune system cells. Lymph vessels are like small veins, except that they carry a clear fluid called lymph away from the breast. Lymph contains tissue fluid and waste products, as well as immune system cells. Breast cancer cells can enter lymph vessels and start to grow in lymph nodes. Most of the lymph vessels of the breast drain into:
- Lymph nodes under the arm
- Lymph nodes around the collar bone
- Lymph nodes inside the chest near the breast bone
If the cancer cells have spread to your lymph nodes, there is a higher chance that the cells could have also traveled through the lymph system and spread to other parts of your body. The more lymph nodes with breast cancer cells, the more likely it is that the cancer may be found in other organs. Because of this, finding cancer in one or more lymph nodes often affects your treatment plan. Usually, surgery to remove one or more lymph nodes will be needed to know whether the cancer has spread.
Still, not all men with cancer cells in their lymph nodes develop metastases to other areas, and some men can have no cancer cells in their lymph nodes and later develop metastases.
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Types Of Breast Cancer In Men
The most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, and invasive lobular carcinoma.
Most breast cancers are carcinomas. In fact, breast cancers are often a type of carcinoma called adenocarcinoma, which starts in cells that make glands . Breast adenocarcinomas start in the ducts or the lobules .
There are other, less common, types of breast cancers, too, such as sarcomas, phyllodes, Pagets disease and angiosarcomas which start in the cells of the muscle, fat, or connective tissue.
Sometimes a single breast tumor can be a combination of different types. And in some very rare types of breast cancer, the cancer cells may not form a lump or tumor at all.
When a biopsy is done to find out the specific type of breast cancer, the pathologist also will say if the cancer has spread in to the surrounding tissues. The name of the breast cancer type will change depending on the extent of the cancer.
- In situ breast cancers have not spread.
- Invasive or infiltrating cancers have spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
These general kinds of breast cancer can be further described with the terms outlined above.
How To Check For Male Breast Cancer
Because men are less likely to receive a mammogram, it’s important to learn how to perform a male self-breast examination. As a patient, it’s imperative to become familiar with your body so you can advocate for yourself and notice when changes occur. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to self-check your breasts at home:
You can also check your breasts while lying down. To do this, set a pillow underneath your right shoulder and bend your right arm over your head. Use the fingertips of your left hand to check all areas of your breast and armpit. Once you’re finished, switch the pillow to your left shoulder and repeat this process.
If you’re uncomfortable doing a self-breast examination, or you fear that you’re not doing it correctly, ask your physician to perform a clinical breast exam for you. Depending on how the examination goes, your physician may order a mammogram, an ultrasound, or an MRI.
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Which Men Are More Likely To Get Breast Cancer
It’s rare for a man under age 35 to get breast cancer. Your chance of getting breast cancer goes up with age. Most breast cancers in men happen between ages 60 and 70.
Other things that raise the odds for male breast cancer include:
- Breast cancer in a close female relative
- History of radiation exposure of the chest
- Enlarged breasts because of drug or hormone treatments, some infections, or poisons
- Severe liver disease, called cirrhosis
- Diseases of the testicles such as mumps orchitis, a testicular injury, or an undescended testicle
What Is Yale Medicines Approach To Detecting And Treating Breast Cancer In Men
Our radiologists are uniquely qualified to diagnose even the rarest forms of breast cancer, including male breast cancerearly and accurately. Our radiologists who subspecialize in breast imaging are among the most highly skilled leaders in the field. They are nationally and internationally recognized for their skill in diagnosing breast cancer. Additionally, our radiologists conduct research on 3D mammography and dense breast imaging, which is advancing the field of radiology.
A man with a breast-related complaint will be scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound within a few days, Dr. Andrejeva-Wright says. If a suspicious mass is seen, then a needle biopsy is scheduled soon after. If a diagnosis of breast cancer is made, our intake specialists coordinate all necessary appointments with the patient as soon as possible, so that treatment can begin quickly.
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Say Goodbye To Breast Cancer With These Ten Low
Plants theory may not be far off the mark. If you follow a low-fat diet as the Chinese do, you can keep the Big C at a distance. These non-fattening foods will be a great help.
The Chinese add lots of mushrooms to their noodles and omelets. A study in the Chinese health journal PLos One revealed that a diet high in mushrooms offers protection from breast cancer. If you dislike Chicken Chow Mien, you can add them to stews, scrambled eggs or stir-fries.
2. Broccoli Sprouts
These vegetables are high in antioxidants. The Center for Cancer Research found that one of them, Sulforaphane, may target cancer growth. Have them in sandwiches and salads.
These fruits are high in ellagic acid, an antioxidant that may slow cancer development. Scientists from the Beckman Research Institute discovered that it restrains the enzymes that may cause breast cancer.
The American Journal Of Nutrition supports Jane Plants theory that dietary changes may help to stop breast cancer development. Researchers studied the Asian diet and found that legumes and soy contributed to lower rates of breast cancer.
If you do not like stir-fried legumes, try a lentil burger. You may substitute them with kale as well.
Be creative and add walnuts to soups, muffins or even pizza.
10. Rye and Whole Grains
Fact #: Male Breast Cancer Is Rare But Rates Are Rising
On average, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,670 new cases of male breast cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. If youre a man in the U.S., your average lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is about 1 in 833.
For perspective, about 268,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women each year in the United States. That means that an American male is about 100 times less likely than a woman to develop breast cancer during his lifetime.
Though the overall risk of developing breast cancer as a male is low, rates are rising. Since 1975, the number of men diagnosed with breast cancer yearly in the United States has increased by between 25 and 42%. Doctors arent entirely sure why this is happening, but they note that rates of female breast cancer have also risen over that time period.
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How To Treat Male Breast Cancer
If you’re diagnosed with male breast cancer, your treatment plan will depend on how far the cancer has spread. Practicing monthly self-breast exams, in addition to receiving a breast examination by your physician, could improve your chances of detecting breast abnormalities early. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.
Possible treatments for male breast cancer include:
- Testicular conditions
“Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent male breast cancer,” says Nicholas Jones, MD, FACS. “However, you can lower your risks by being active, and limiting your alcohol consumption.”
In addition, avoiding hormonal supplements, such as sexual performance enhancement supplements, may help to prevent male breast cancer. According to a 2019 study, the use of hormonal male enhancement supplements can lead to the higher levels of androgens, which may cause the growth of tumors.
Risk Factors For Breast Cancer In Men
While it is difficult to determine the exact causes of male breast cancer, there are some factors that are linked to an increased risk of the disease. Although these risk factors increase your risk of breast cancer, it does not mean that you will develop breast cancer. Moreover, having no known risk factors does not guarantee that you will never develop breast cancer.
Common risk factors for breast cancer in men include:
Similar to women, men are much more likely to develop breast cancer as they get older. The majority of men are diagnosed at or after age 50, although it can occur at any age.
Strong family history
A strong family history of male or female breast cancer can increase the risk of men developing breast cancer. However, most men who develop breast cancer do not have a strong family history. If you are concerned that you may have an increased risk of breast cancer due to family history, please consult your doctor.
BRCA gene mutations
Men with an inherited mutation in the BRCA2 gene, and to a lesser extent the BRCA1 gene, are at an increased risk of breast cancer. However, only a minority of breast cancers are explained by inherited mutations, and not everyone with a faulty gene will develop breast cancer. If you are concerned about your breast cancer risk due to genetic susceptibility, please speak with your doctor.
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Focusing On Men With Breast Cancer
Fewer than 1% of breast cancers diagnosed each year occur in men, noted Alexandra Zimmer, M.D., of the Womens Malignancies Branch in NCIs Center for Cancer Research, who was not involved in the study.
So far, we have been mostly lumping men with breast cancer and women with breast cancer in clinical trials and evaluations, Dr. Zimmer said.
As a result, the treatment of male breast cancer has largely been based on studies involving women with the disease, she continued.
The results of this retrospective study suggest that men with breast cancer deserve dedicated studies that will help us to better understand the biology of the disease in males, Dr. Zimmer said.
What Raises The Risk Of Breast Cancer
While experts cannot pinpoint the causes of breast cancer, they can identify what puts a woman at risk of developing it. Your tendency to contract it is high if you have the following attributes. Your propensity for breast cancer increases when you are older. Cancer develops in postmenopausal women rather than those who are younger.
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Sharing Your Diagnosis With Others
You might find it difficult to tell others about your diagnosis. If so, it can be helpful to start by telling your family and close friends first. This will help you become familiar with peoples responses and reactions. As breast cancer in men is rare, you may find that people want to ask you questions. You may like to have a few answers prepared.
Many people who are diagnosed with cancer find that it affects their friendships. Sadly, this usually happens when friends and family dont know how to cope with the news. Sometimes, a person you thought would be there for you will respond by stepping back. At other times, the opposite happens, and people who you do not have regular contact with you may respond by making contact and offering help. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to respond to breast cancer. Just find what works for you, your family and your friends.
Seek out support that is available to you like family, friends, doctors and nurses. Ask lots of questions and get as much information as you can to understand the disease. I found reading online forums, books and pamphlets helpful. Matthew
If You Have Breast Cancer
If youre diagnosed with breast cancer youll be told if it is early breast cancer, also known as primary breast cancer, or if breast cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer.
Youll also be given more detailed information that will help your specialist team decide which treatments to recommend.
Youll be introduced to a breast care nurse who will talk to you about your diagnosis and treatment. They will offer you support and written information and can be a point of contact throughout your treatment and afterwards.
To find out more about the information and support we can offer, call our Helpline on 0808 800 6000.
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Breast Cancer: ‘both My Husband And I Survived The Disease’
Pat and Mark James know they are a lucky couple. Both have survived breast cancer.
Grandmother Pat’s diagnosis perhaps is not so unusual as it is the UK’s most common cause of cancer among women.
But what some find “gobsmacking” is that husband Mark has had it. He is one of 370 men among almost 56,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK every year.
“Many men are oblivious that they can get breast cancer,” said Mark, 79.
“I’d not heard about it before I got it,” said the grandfather from south Wales who, like his wife, wants to raise awareness of the illness.
He urged men to put their “embarrassment” to one side and examine their chest for possible abnormalities.
“Most think it is a cancer only women can get and that may be because much of the awareness campaigns are aimed at women – with pink campaigns,” said the former Army reservist.
“But men need to know they can get it, and die from it, too. It, like in women, needs to be caught early.”
Pat had the “trauma” of breast cancer 40 years ago when their two children were small. She had a swift diagnosis, followed by surgery and was able to help Mark through his own ordeal four years ago.
“Men haven’t even thought about getting breast cancer,” said Pat, a line dancing teacher who lives in the seaside resort of Porthcawl.
“It was a shock but it was important to get an early diagnosis.”
“But men simply don’t do that because they are not aware.
When Men Get Breast Cancer
Bob Riter was 40 years old when he was diagnosed with breast cancer.
He noticed a lump the size of a pencil eraser under his left nipple but at first, wasn’t particularly alarmed. When, two weeks later, his nipple began to bleed, Riter says he still felt surprise more than anything else.
“I didn’t know it was an orifice,” he said, chuckling in a phone interview. “I was mainly shocked.”
Shock is a major part of a breast cancer diagnosis for many men, who are surprised to learn that they can even get the disease. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2010, nearly 2,000 cases of male breast cancer were diagnosed in the U.S., and though that represents only a fraction of the 200,000 total new cases last year, male breast cancer resulted in nearly 400 deaths. It also left many patients and survivors feeling isolated and embarrassed.
In many ways, breast cancer is similar in both men and women — a tumor develops in the cells of the breast. Though the cause is unknown, men who have a mutation in the BRCA2 gene as well as those who have Klinefelter syndrome — a condition where men have an extra X chromosome — are at greater risk.
Treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer in men is generally similar to that of women. This is a blessing for many medical practitioners, who can draw upon their knowledge about treating women to help their male patients.
But some researchers lament the lack of information particular to males.
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