Targeted Cancer Drug Therapy
Your doctor will check your cancer cells for proteins called HER2 receptors. But these are rarely found in male breast cancer. If your cancer cells have a lot of these receptors, your doctor will prescribe a targeted drug treatment for you.
The most common targeted drug for breast cancer is trastuzumab .
What Causes Male Breast Cancer
Anyone can get breast cancer. Overall health, family history and genetic factors increase the risk of developing the disease. Risk factors of male breast cancer include:
- Age: Men over 60 are more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Overall health: Men with obesity may have gynecomastia . Gynecomastia increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Estrogen levels: Certain drugs that contain estrogen cause estrogen levels to rise. Cirrhosis can also increase estrogen levels. A genetic disorder called Klinefelter syndrome increases the risk of several health issues, including breast cancer.
- Family history: Men who have a first-degree relative with breast cancer have a higher chance of the disease.
- Genes: Genetic mutations increase the risk of developing breast cancer. These include changes in the BRCA gene . Mutations in these genes also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
- Radiation therapy: Men who had radiation therapy in the chest or torso have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Testicular issues: People who have had surgery to remove their testicles have a higher risk of breast cancer. Testicle injuries also increase the risk.
Kenneth Todd Nelson On Beating Breast Cancer And What All Men Should Know
While men may not be the first group of people you think of when hearing the words breast cancer, 1 in every 100 breast cancer patients are, in fact, men. Whatsmore, the American Cancer Society estimates almost 3,000 men will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone.
These numbers are not insignificant, but numbers alone may not hit home for many of us. Getting to know the faces and stories of the men behind these numbers, however, is the first step toward raising awareness for the risks and potential risks all men carry for developing the disease.
K Health sat down with entertainer, activist, entrepreneur, and breast cancer survivor, Kenneth Todd Nelson, to chat about what hes learned since receiving his diagnosis three years agoand what he says all men need to know about their bodies and risk factors.
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Can I Prevent Male Breast Cancer
You may not be able to prevent breast cancer. But you can lower your risk of developing the disease by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding excess alcohol and getting plenty of exercise.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor. You may consider genetic testing to see if you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation. These gene changes increase your risk of breast cancer. People with these gene changes should visit their healthcare provider regularly and get frequent cancer screenings.
Family Members With Breast Cancer Or A Breast Cancer Gene
Men who have female relatives with breast cancer have an increased risk of breast cancer, especially if the women are close relatives . The risk also increases if the women were diagnosed at a young age . Men, as well as women, can inherit faulty genes that increase the risk of breast cancer.
Around 2 in 100 breast cancers diagnosed in women are thought to be due directly to an inherited faulty gene . In men, this might be more common. Doctors think that around 5 to 10 out of 100 breast cancers diagnosed in men are due to inherited faulty genes . In men with breast cancer, changes in the BRCA2 faulty gene are more common than BRCA1.
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Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
Male breast cancer is rare, and often the diagnosis is delayed, leading to very high mortality. To improve outcomes, an interprofessional team approach that consists of an oncologist, surgeon, radiation therapist, dietitian, and mental health counselor is recommended. The majority of these patients initially present to their primary care provider or nurse practitioner. Unlike females, there may not be any risk factors, and hence any mass should be worked up, and a malignancy ruled out. The primary care providers should never assume that breast growth is simply benign gynecomastia. Men who are more than 50 years of age should be worked up to rule out breast cancer if there is a lesion.
Once diagnosed, the pharmacist should educate the patient on chemotherapeutic drugs, and the oncology nurse and clinician should discuss radiation therapy and its benefits.
An aspect of male breast cancer that is frequently overlooked is the negative stigmas that these patients routinely face, which leads them to feel quite isolated and vulnerable. Psychosocial support through various interprofessional teams should be offered to allow for a more normalization of their condition and experience as well as to create an atmosphere of nonjudgmental dialogue to address their concerns and potential stigmas.
Stage for stage the prognosis for male breast cancer is the same as in females.
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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What Are The Treatments For Male Breast Cancer
Male breast cancer treatment depends on the type and stage of the disease. Your team of providers will discuss your options with you. Your medical history will help guide what treatment is best for you. Treatments include:
- Surgery: During breast cancer surgery, your provider removes as much of the tumor as possible. You may need a lumpectomy or a mastectomy . Because men have limited breast tissue, mastectomy is more commonly done. You may also need surgery to remove lymph nodes.
- Radiation: Your provider uses targeted radiation therapy to kill cancer cells. Radiation for breast cancer usually follows surgery .
- Chemotherapy : Your provider delivers chemotherapy drugs into a vein, usually through an infusion. You might also take oral chemotherapy pills . These medications kill cancer cells and stop them from multiplying. You may receive chemo treatments over several weeks or months.
- Hormone therapy : Your provider prescribes medications that affect your hormones. These drugs may lower levels of estrogen or block the effects of estrogen. Providers usually use hormone therapy to treat women with breast cancer, but it can be an effective treatment for men, too. These medications treat breast cancers that use hormones to grow. Hormone therapy can be given in the form of pills and/or injections.
- Medications: Several medications kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. Your provider will discuss these medications with you. These may include medications called targeted therapy.
Breast Cancer And Birth Control
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center also notes that the overall cancer risk for teens remains low, even though using hormonal birth control minimally increases the risk of developing cancer.
If you use hormonal birth control and youre concerned about your cancer risk, please discuss your options with your doctor before stopping your birth control.
Doctors should exercise caution before recommending oral contraceptives to someone in this group.
That said, an increased breast cancer risk is just one of many factors to consider before deciding on the right birth control method.
Teens going through the earlier stages of puberty may notice lumps near their nipples. Tenderness and soreness are also possible. These occur during normal breast development and arent a cause of concern on their own.
Your period can also cause tenderness and soreness in the breasts.
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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
Risk Factors For Male Breast Cancer
Several factors are known to increase the risk that a man will develop breast cancer. But its important to know that many men who develop breast cancer do not have any of these risk factors.
Factors that can increase a mans breast cancer risk include:
The risk of male breast cancer increases as you age. The average age of men diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States is about 67. But breast cancer can occur in young men, too.
A mans risk for breast cancer is higher if any of his close relatives have had breast cancer, and especially if any male relatives have had the disease.
Men who inherit certain genetic mutations from their mothers or fathers have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. A man who inherits a BRCA1 mutation has about a 1% risk of developing breast cancer in his lifetime, compared to a risk of 0.1% for the average man. A man who inherits a BRCA2 mutation has a 7% to 8% risk.
Mutations in the ATM, CHEK2, PALB2, and other genes are also linked to breast cancer in men, but more research is needed to understand those risks.
You may think of testosterone as a male hormone and estrogen as a female hormone. The truth is, both men and women have different levels of testosterone and estrogen in their bodies. Men have less estrogen than women, but all men have some estrogen in their bodies.
Higher levels of estrogen can increase the risk of male breast cancer. Men can have high estrogen levels as a result of:
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Male Breast Cancer Is A Disease In Which Malignant Cells Form In The Tissues Of The Breast
Breast cancer may occur in men. Breast cancer may occur in men at any age, but it usually occurs in men between 60 and 70 years of age. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all cases of breast cancer.
The following types of breast cancer are found in men:
- Infiltrating ductal carcinoma: Cancer that has spread beyond thecells liningducts in the breast. This is the most common type of breast cancer in men.
- Ductal carcinoma in situ: Abnormal cells that are found in the lining of a duct also called intraductal carcinoma.
- Inflammatory breast cancer: A type of cancer in which the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm.
- Paget disease of the nipple: A tumor that has grown from ducts beneath the nipple onto the surface of the nipple.
Lobular carcinoma in situ , which sometimes occurs in women, has not been seen in men.
What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Men
Because men dont have regular mammogram scans like women, physical signs of breast cancer are often the first indication a man notices. The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men include:
- Breast lump: A thickened area, lump or mass may grow on the breast, behind the nipple or in the armpit.
- Change in appearance: The breast tissue may look larger, puckered, misshapen or sunken. There may be a dimple or several small divots or pits, like the skin of an orange.
- Pain: You may have tenderness, sensitivity or pain in the breast tissue or underarm area. Instead, you may have a painless lump in the breast or armpit.
- Problems with the nipple: Clear fluid or bloody liquid may come out of the nipple. An inverted nipple can be another sign of breast cancer.
- Skin changes: Red, flaky or scaly skin may appear anywhere on the breast or nipple area. You may see ulcers on the skin.
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How Is Breast Cancer Treated
As in women, treatment for breast cancer in men depends on how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Male Breast Cancer Treatment.external icon
Community Support Is Everything
Coming to terms with his diagnosis proved one of the biggest hurdles of his treatment to date, Kenneth says. I posted a picture on Instagram, and I had lost probably about 20 pounds within a few weeks. You could see it. And people were like, Somethings not right. They speculated a lotthey thought I had all kinds of other things going on.
Though the speculation stung, Kenneth still wasnt sure he was ready to talk about what was going on with him yet. I was carrying this weight trying to pretend like everythings fine, and I just got to a point where I was too tired to keep it up. Thats a lot to carry when youre trying to survive, Kenneth explains.
But people asking all the wrong questions ultimately drove him to speak his truth. He says, Thats when I started telling my friends and family because everyone knew something was off.
Immediately and in unison, Kenneths friends and family began to rally around him. He tells us, They all came together. Everyone was helping. One of my friends, Janelle, ended up paying all of my billsshe took care of my rent, my food, whatever I needed. Because when youre going through this, at least for me, I didnt have the resources financially.
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Types Of Breast Lumps That Teens Can Get
The most common type of breast cancer found in teens is secretory adenocarcinoma. This is generally a slow growing, nonaggressive cancer.
Though theres little chance of this type of cancer spreading to other parts of the body, spread to local lymph nodes has been noted in a few cases.
Most breast lumps in teenage girls are fibroadenomas, which are noncancerous. An overgrowth of connective tissue in the breast causes fibroadenomas.
The lump is usually hard and rubbery, and you can move it around with your fingers. Fibroadenomas account for 91 percent of all solid breast masses in girls younger than 19 years old.
Other less common breast lumps in teens include cysts, which are noncancerous fluid-filled sacs.
Banging or injuring breast tissue, possibly during a fall or while playing sports, can also cause lumps.
If you feel anything unusual in your breast, see your doctor. They will ask:
- about your familys medical history
- when you discovered the lump
- if theres nipple discharge
- if the lump hurts
If anything looks or feels suspicious, your doctor will have you undergo an ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to see into your breasts. It can help determine whether a lump is solid, which is an indication of cancer.
If its fluid-filled, that will most likely indicate a cyst. Your doctor may also insert a fine needle into the lump to draw out tissue and test it for cancer.
Mammograms Are For Everyone
The doctor asked Kenneth to remove his shirt so he could inspect the bump, Kenneth recalls the doctor saying, I think youre okay, but lets just get this checked out just in case. This may seem a little weird, but were going to have to do a mammogram just to see.
He recalls, I never really thought about mammograms at all. I thought they were for women, I knew they were important, but not necessarily important for meuntil you realize, thank God for them.
Kenneths doctor sent him for an ultrasound following the mammogram. They thought they saw something and wanted to make sure everything was okay. So I thought, Okay, just one more test. The ultrasound.
The ultrasound led Kenneth to a biopsy, stage II breast cancer diagnosis, lumpectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. Each brought different waves of emotions, and new depths of understanding, not just of himself, but of his place in the world.
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