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What Age Do Men Get Breast Cancer

Men You Should Worry About Brca Genes

Men can also get breast cancer

Rare, but it happens

Many people simply do not realise that men can indeed get breast cancer. Although it is rare, only accounting for one percent breast cancers, it still happens and the diagnosis is arguably even more devastating for men.

Anatomically, the male breast is very similar to the female breast, and although it lacks the mammary glands and milk ducts, it still contains breast tissue that has the potential to become malignant.

Incidence of male breast cancer is increasing, although up-to-date statistics are difficult to obtain for South Africa.

The outdated National Cancer Registry reports that there were 194 cases in South Africa in 2017, while in the US there are around 2800 cases per year. Risk factors include age and family history of breast cancer, as well as lifestyle factors such as obesity, and oestrogen-related drugs that are used for gender reassignment and in the treatment of prostate cancer.

A case in point

South African Steve Kelly is a breast cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with high-risk Stage 3 Grade 3 breast cancer in December 2018, after his partner felt a lump behind his right nipple.

The nipple also appeared slightly inverted, but otherwise Kelly had no symptoms or feelings of illness.

The lump, a ductal carcinoma about the size of a marble, was surgically removed along with several lymph nodes, and following surgery, he had six months of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation.

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Should Men At Higher Risk For Breast Cancer Get Screening Mammograms

Men have less breast tissue than women and fewer than 1 percent of men develop breast cancer, so national cancer screening guidelines do not recommend regular screening mammograms for men. However, if a doctor suspects breast cancer, a diagnostic mammogram may be needed to look for malignant tumors.

However, when a man is determined to be at higher risk for breast cancer, it is recommended that he have an annual clinical breast exam to check for breast changes that could indicate breast cancer.

When To See Your Gp

See your GP if you have:

  • a lump in your breast
  • any other worrying symptoms, such as nipple discharge
  • a history of breast cancer in members of your family and you’re worried about your chances of getting it

It’s very unlikely you have cancer, but it’s best to get your symptoms checked. Your GP will examine your breast and can refer you for tests and scans for breast cancer if needed.

If you do not have symptoms but have a clear family history of breast cancer, your GP may refer you to a genetic specialist to discuss your risk of getting it.

There are some inherited genes that increase your risk of cancer and a blood test can be done to check for these. Read about testing for cancer risk genes.

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What Is The Outlook For Men With Breast Cancer

The prognosis for men who have breast cancer depends on the tumors size and if it has spread. These are reflected in the cancer stage. In general, a higher stage indicates a worse prognosis. Early diagnosis can improve the outlook significantly. But because men dont get regular breast cancer screenings like women, the first sign of cancer is usually a lump. By that time, the cancer has often spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body.

Healthcare providers measure cancer outlook by the five-year survival rate. Overall, the survival rate for male breast cancer is 84%. The survival rate for men with breast cancer that has not spread beyond the original tumor is 97%. For men with cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the survival rate is about 22%.

How Is Breast Cancer Treated

BreastCheck

Treatment for breast cancer is the same in men as in women. It 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

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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.

How Is A Male Breast Cancer Diagnosis Made

If a doctor has reason to suspect cancer, the following tests and procedures may be used to arrive at a diagnosis:

  • Clinical breast exam. Usually a first step, this is performed in the office. The doctor feels the breast and underarm area for palpable lumps and examines the skin and nipple for any breast changes.
  • Imaging tests. Next, the doctor may order such tests as a mammogram with a breast ultrasound and, occasionally, a magnetic resonance imaging of the breasts. A radiologist will examine these imaging tests to look for malignant tumors.
  • Breast biopsy. A breast biopsy is a procedure in which a small piece of tissue is removed and sent to a pathology lab, where it is evaluated to determine if it is malignant or benign. The four main kinds of breast biopsies are the core needle biopsy, excisional biopsy, fine need aspiration, and punch skin biopsy.
  • Hormone-sensitivity tests. If cancer is found, an estrogen and progesterone receptor test is performed to determine whether the tumor contains receptors for estrogen and progesterone. If it does, the patient can also be treated with medications that suppress estrogen and progesterone in the body, depriving cancer cells of those hormones. This is done in addition to surgical therapy.

  • HER2 test. This test measures the amount of the growth-factor protein known as HER2, found in the breast tissue. This information helps a medical oncologist choose the right therapy for treatment.

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Men With Breast Cancer Usually Have Lumps That Can Be Felt

Lumps and other signs may be caused by male breast cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast.
  • A dimple or puckering in the skin of the breast.
  • A nipple turned inward into the breast.
  • Fluid from the nipple, especially if it’s bloody.
  • Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola .
  • Dimples in the breast that look like the skin of an orange, called peau dorange.

Types Of Breast Cancer In Men

Men Get Breast Cancer Too

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.

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Medical History And Physical Exam

If there is a chance you have breast cancer, your doctor will want to get a complete personal and family medical history. This may give some clues about the cause of any symptoms you are having and if you might be at increased risk for breast cancer.

A complete breast exam will be done to find any lumps or suspicious areas and to feel their texture, size, and relationship to the skin and muscle. The doctor may also examine the rest of your body to look for any evidence of possible spread, such as enlarged lymph nodes .

Men And Breast Cancer: Statistics

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • Breast cancer in men is rare less than 1 percent of all breast cancer occurs in men.

  • About 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in men in the U.S in 2015.

  • Breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women.

  • About 440 men in the U.S. died from breast cancer in 2015.

Some people use statistics to figure out their chances of getting cancer. Or they use them to try to figure out their chance of being cured. Because no two people are alike, statistics cant be used to predict what will happen to one person. These statistics describe large groups of people. They dont take into account a person’s own risk factors, such as family history, behaviors, or cancer screenings. If you have questions, talk with your healthcare provider.

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If The Cancer Has Spread Beyond The Breast

Some men are diagnosed with cancer that has already spread. Or the cancer might come back and spread some time after treatment. This is called secondary breast cancer, advanced breast cancer, or metastatic breast cancer.

In this situation your doctor might recommend:

  • chemotherapy

When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Male Breast Cancer

5 Things You Need to Know About 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.

References

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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.

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:

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Genetics And Family History

A genetic mutation is a permanent alteration in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene. The result is that one or more of the body’s processes may not work in the way they should.

There are a number of genetic mutations known to increase your risk of developing breast cancer. The most significant mutation identified is known as the BRCA2 mutation. Faulty genes are believed to be the cause of male breast cancer in around 1 or 2 in every 10 cases.

There’s also evidence that breast cancer can run in families, especially in men who have a first-degree relative who has developed breast cancer, such as a mother or sister.

Routine testing for the faulty genes that cause breast cancer in men isn’t usually carried out on the NHS, unless specifically requested by a specialist. However, some private clinics may offer gene testing. Tests can be expensive, with prices ranging from around £2,000 to £3,000.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer

Men can get breast cancer, too

Many people dont know that men can get breast cancer because they dont think of men as having breasts. But men do have a small amount of breast tissue.

Breast cancer in men is cancer that starts in this small amount of breast tissue.

Breast cancer in men is very rare. Around 370 men are diagnosed each year in the UK.

Most men who get breast cancer are over 60, although younger men can be affected.

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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.

All Cancers Combined Incidence By Age

Incidence rates are strongly related to age for all cancers combined, with the highest incidence rates being in older people. In the UK in 2015-2017, on average each year more than a third of new cases were in people aged 75 and over.

Age-specific incidence rates rise steeply from around age 55-59. The highest rates are in the 85 to 89 age group for females and males.

Incidence rates are significantly higher in females than males in the younger age groups and significantly lower in females than males in the older age groups.The gap is widest at age 40 to 44, when the age-specific incidence rate is 2.1 times higher in females than males.

All Cancers , Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2015-2017

Children aged 0-14, and young people aged 15-24, each account for less than one per cent of all new cancer cases in the UK . Adults aged 25-49 contribute around a tenth of all new cancer cases, with twice as many cases in females as males in this age group. Adults aged 50-74 account for more than half of all new cancer cases, and elderly people aged 75+ account for more than a third , with slightly fewer cases in females than males in both age groups. There are more people aged 50-74 than aged 75+ in the population overall, hence the number of cancer cases is higher in 50-74s, but incidence rates are higher in 75+s.

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How Common Is It

Breast cancer isnt common in women under 40.

A womans risk of breast cancer throughout her 30s is just 1 in 227, or about 0.4 percent. By age 40 to 50, the risk is roughly 1 in 68, or about 1.5 percent. From age 60 to 70, the chance increases to 1 in 28, or 3.6 percent.

Out of all types of cancer, though, breast cancer is the most common among U.S. women. A womans risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime is about 12 percent.

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