Deterrence And Patient Education
Routine screening of males with breast cancer is not established due to the rarity of occurrence. Yet, males should be educated on the potential risk factors discussed and be advised on genetic counseling if they have a family history of breast cancer or other cancers that may be triggered by a BRCA gene, for example, ovarian, pancreatic, testicular, or prostate cancers.
What Are The Risk Factors
Several factors can increase a mans chance of getting breast cancer. Having risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer.
- Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers are found after age 50.
- Genetic mutations. Inherited changes in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, increase breast cancer risk.
- Family history of breast cancer. A mans risk for breast cancer is higher if a close family member has had breast cancer.
- Radiation therapy treatment. Men who had radiation therapy to the chest have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Hormone therapy treatment. Drugs containing estrogen , which were used to treat prostate cancer in the past, increase mens breast cancer risk.
- Klinefelter syndrome.Klinefelter syndromeexternal icon is a rare genetic condition in which a male has an extra X chromosome. This can lead to the body making higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens .
- Conditions that affect the testicles. Injury to, swelling in, or surgery to remove the testicles can increase breast cancer risk.
- Liver disease. Cirrhosis of the liver can lower androgen levels and raise estrogen levels in men, increasing the risk of breast cancer.
- Overweight and obesity. Older men who are overweight or have obesity have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than men at a normal weight.
Talk to your doctor about your familys history of cancer.
What Research Is Being Conducted On Male Breast Cancer
MSK is one of the leading centers in a new international effort to study male breast cancer. The first part of this project was focused on retrospective analyses of past patients in order to learn more about the biology of their disease.
Current male breast cancer patients may enroll in a clinical research trial at MSK that will enable investigators to study the disease in more depth. This trial includes an expanded molecular analysis of tumors as well as a greater focus on how different treatments affect quality of life and other health conditions.
Based on the findings from these efforts, Dr. Gucalp and her colleagues plan to eventually develop clinical trials designed specifically for men with breast cancer, as well as to expand current breast cancer trials to include more male patients. MSK already has one drug trial under way that is enrolling a small number of men.
Because there is limited published data about treating male breast cancer, we base most of our treatment recommendations on what we have learned from female breast cancer patients, Dr. Gucalp says. What we are learning now from clinical trials could eventually change the landscape for men with breast cancer.
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But Men Dont Have Breasts Do They
Men do have breast tissue, just like women. The difference is in the amount of tissue they have.
Before puberty, boys and girls have the same amount of breast tissue. Breast tissue is made up of milk-producing glands called lobules, ducts that transport milk to the nipples, and fat.
At puberty, girls ovaries start producing female hormones. These hormones cause the breasts to grow. Boys dont produce the same hormones, so their breasts stay flat. Sometimes a mans breasts can grow because he takes certain hormones or if hes exposed to hormones in the environment.
Men can develop a few different types of breast cancer:
- Ductal carcinoma is an early cancer that starts in the milk ducts.
- Lobular carcinoma starts in the milk-producing glands.
- Paget disease starts in the breast ducts, and then spreads to the nipple.
- Inflammatory breast cancer makes the breast swell up and turn red. Its very
Although breast cancer is rare in men, its important to know if youre at risk. Thats because men arent routinely screened for breast cancer like women are.
Risks for male breast cancer include:
Age: Whether youre a man or a woman, youre more likely to get breast cancer as you get older. The average age for a man to get diagnosed is 68 . However, you can get breast cancer at any age.
Weight gain: Fat tissue releases the female hormone estrogen. Estrogen stimulates breast cancer growth. The more overweight you are, the more of this hormone you produce.
Treatment Of Male Breast Cancer
Breast cancer treatment depends on the specific type and stage, but in general, “men with breast cancer are not any differently than a post-menopausal woman with breast cancer,” Shah says. Treatment could include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation and/or surgery.
“The main difference in treatment for breast cancer in men is the surgery to remove the tumor is usually a mastectomy,” Brown says, rather than a lumpectomy “Lumpectomy, often used in women, is rarely used in men because of the small size of the male breast.”
After that, treatment is handled on a case-by-case basis, Brown notes, with some men requiring radiation therapy, depending on the stage. Typically, hormone therapy is also used since most male breast cancer cases are hormone-receptor positive. This therapy helps prevent the estrogen and progesterone hormones from attaching to the receptors , which stops the growth of cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is also dependent on stage and type.
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Reversing The Stigma For Men With Breast Cancer
The diagnosis of breast cancer alone is enough to upset any patient. Add the perception of the disease as feminine, though, and a new layer of discomfort is common. ” may be embarrassed if they have to get a diagnostic mammogram or see a breast surgeon or breast cancer oncologist where they are surrounded by pink and mistaken as a caregiver and not the patient,” Brown says.
To that end, it’s up to caregivers and the public to shift the dialogue to be more inclusive. “We can do a better job when talking about breast cancer, deliberately adding men to the story, acknowledging it can occur normalizing the occurrence of breast cancer in men to remove the stigma,” Brown of Susan G. Komen says. “And, as more men share their breast cancer diagnosis publicly, the stigma should decrease.”
It’s incredibly rare for a child to get breast cancer, but it can happen. Some kids are more likely to develop the disease than others, such as those who’ve had another type of cancer that spread to the breast, or those who’ve had radiation to the breast as part of another treatment.
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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Causes Of Breast Cancer In Men
The exact cause of breast cancer in men is not known, but there are some things that increase your risk of getting it.
- genes and family history inheriting faulty versions of genes called BRCA1 or BRCA2 increases your risk of breast cancer
- conditions that can increase the level of oestrogen in the body including obesity, Klinefelter syndrome and scarring of the liver
- previous radiotherapy to the chest area
It’s not certain that you can do anything to reduce your risk, but eating a balanced diet, losing weight if you’re overweight and not drinking too much alcohol may help.
Page last reviewed: 18 March 2020 Next review due: 18 March 2023
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If Cancer Is Found Tests Are Done To Study The Cancer Cells
- How quickly the cancer may grow.
- How likely it is that the cancer will spread through the body.
- How well certain treatments might work.
- How likely the cancer is to recur .
Tests include the following:
- Estrogen and progesterone receptor test: A test to measure the amount of estrogen and progesterone receptors in cancer tissue. If there are more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal, the cancer is called estrogen and/or progesterone receptor positive. This type of breast cancer may grow more quickly. The test results show whether treatment to block estrogen and progesterone may stop the cancer from growing.
- HER2 test: A laboratory test to measure how many HER2/neu genes there are and how much HER2/neu protein is made in a sample of tissue. If there are more HER2/neu genes or higher levels of HER2/neu protein than normal, the cancer is called HER2/neu positive. This type of breast cancer may grow more quickly and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body. The cancer may be treated with drugs that target the HER2/neu protein, such as trastuzumab and pertuzumab.
Looking For More Of An Introduction
If you would like more of an introduction, explore these related items. Please note that these links will take you to other sections on Cancer.Net:
- ASCO Answers Fact Sheet: Read a 1-page fact sheet that offers an easy-to-print introduction to breast cancer. This free fact sheet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.
- ASCO Answers Guide:Get this free 52-page booklet that helps you better understand this disease and treatment options. The booklet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.
- Cancer.Net Patient Education Video:View a short video led by an ASCO expert in breast cancer that provides basic information and areas of research.
The next section in this guide is Statistics. It helps explain the number of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer and general survival rates. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.
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Where Does Breast Cancer Originate
Ductal cancers, which are the most common and account for 80% of breast cancers, originate in the milk ducts that lead to the nipple.Lobular cancers start to develop in the glands that make milk.Sarcomas and lymphomas, which are less common, start to develop in the other tissues of the breast.At times, breast cancer may not form a lump. Such cancers can be detected by mammograms, which can detect breast cancers at a very early stage even before any symptoms appear.
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Men
The most common symptom for men with breast cancer include:
- lump in the breast that is nearly always painless
- oozing from the nipple that may be blood stained
- a nipple that is pulled into the breast
- swelling of the breast
- a sore in the skin of the breast
- lump or swelling under the arm
- a rash on or around the nipple
If you have any of these symptoms it is important to go to your GP straight away. Finding a cancer early gives the best chance of successful treatment.
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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
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Male Breast Cancer
If you notice any symptoms of breast cancer, call your provider right away. Its essential to see your provider for an evaluation as early as possible. Early detection and treatment can greatly improve the prognosis.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Many men dont think breast cancer can happen to them. So they may not recognize signs when they appear. If you think something isnt right with your chest tissue, see your provider for an evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment can have a significant impact on the long-term prognosis. Be honest with your provider about your symptoms and how long youve had them. If you have any risk factors for male breast cancer, talk to your provider about how you can reduce your risk.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/15/2021.
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Male Breast Cancer: A Rare Increasing Trend
The color pink isnt exclusive to women, and neither is the disease that it often represents: breast cancer. While breast cancer is more than 100 times more common in women than men, men are much less likely to detect breast cancer early on, notes David Euhus, M.D., director of breast surgery at the Johns Hopkins Breast Center.
When addressed with standard treatment, breast cancer survival rates are the same in men and women. But Euhus notes that key differences occur in diagnosis and screening and the results are less than favorable for men. Men are more likely to ignore a lump in their breast and tend to present at higher stages than women, Euhus says.
This trend is believed to be the primary factor contributing to the 25 percent higher mortality rate for male breast cancer compared to female breast cancer.Once the disease has spread to the lymph nodes, which is more common among men, it requires more aggressive treatment and can increase the likelihood of developing a second cancer. Men who have had breast cancer have a higher risk for developing cancer in the opposite breast, melanoma and prostate cancer.
Euhus adds that historically, the issue has been compacted because men werent being offered the traditional breast cancer regimen provided to women. Standard treatment for male breast cancer includes a combination of chemotherapy, hormone therapy and mastectomy.
What Are The Stages Of Male Breast Cancer
After diagnosing breast cancer, providers classify the disease using a process called staging. Providers measure the tumor and look at its location. They determine whether the tumor has spread to lymph nodes, surrounding breast tissue or other parts of your body. Lymph nodes are small organs that move fluid through the body and help protect you from illness.
The stages of male breast cancer are:
Stage 0: Cancer cells are only in the ducts. Cancer has not spread to other breast tissue.
Stage I: The tumor is small and hasnt spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage II: One of these is true:
- The tumor is smaller than 20 millimeters and has spread to a few axillary lymph nodes. Axillary nodes are lymph nodes in the armpit.
- The tumor is 20 mm to 50 mm across and has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes . Or the tumor is 20 mm to 50 mm and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes .
- The tumor is larger than 50 mm and has not spread to a few axillary lymph nodes.
Stage III: Cancer has spread typically to several lymph nodes. Cancer cells may also be in the chest wall or skin. It has not spread to other areas of the body away from the breast.
Stage IV: Cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body away from the breast. Cancer can spread to all areas of the body, including the lungs, bones, liver or brain.
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