Male Breast Cancer
Hello, Warriors! How are you feeling? With a new day comes another opportunity to stay active and live your best life. We hope you’re taking advantage of the outdoors to catch a bit of fresh air (sans humidity). Thank you for taking time out of your active schedule to visit The Breast Place blog. Welcome! We cover a range of topics here, including breast cancer management, anti-aging skin treatments, and tips for overall health and wellness. The Breast Place is committed to sharing the best health practices and treatment options with you! Check out our previous posts about how the water you’re using may be affecting your skin and the importance of genetic testing! And, of course, be sure to return here for further tips on how to improve and prioritize your health!
Today we want to provide you with a comprehensive resource full of information concerning male breast cancer. Many people aren’t aware men can develop breast cancer. This misconception, combined with a lack of general medical knowledge, can contribute to later diagnoses for men with breast cancer. We hope to bring awareness to the reality of breast cancer for men, as well as detail potential differences in symptoms and treatment. We’ll discuss risk factors which might leave a man predisposed to developing breast cancer and quote survival rates among men. We hope this article is helpful!
Men and women are both born with breast tissue and milk-producing glands within the breast. Women, unlike men, continue to develop breast tissue during puberty. For this reason, breast cancer among men is relatively rare. About one in one-hundred—or one-percent—of breast cancer cases are diagnosed within men. Men develop the same types of breast cancer as women. The first and most common type is invasive ductal carcinoma, which occurs when cancer develops in the milk duct. The second most common type is invasive lobular carcinoma, which occurs when cancer develops in the milk-producing glands. Men have less lobules within their breast tissue, which accounts for the decreased rate of this type of cancer within men.
Finally, there are a few other types of cancers (or diseases which can lead to cancer). Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is an early, noninvasive stage of the invasive ductal carcinoma. Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer, only affecting one to five percent of all breast cancer patients, and is characterized by redness and swelling. This inflammation is the result of cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. There’s also Paget’s disease, which is another rare form of breast cancer. Paget’s disease, when of the breast, begins in the nipple and expands outward to the edge of the areola. The disease can often be mistaken for a skin condition, such as dermatitis.
There are plenty of risk factors which can contribute to (or indicate an increased chance of) breast cancer development. The first risk factor is age. The likelihood of developing breast cancer increases with age and most breast cancer within men is diagnosed after the age of sixty. Another key risk factor is exposure to the hormone estrogen. This increased exposure could come from hormone therapy (often used to treat prostate cancer). Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic syndrome resulting from males being born with an extra copy of the X chromosome, can lead to abnormal development of the testicles and increased production of estrogen. Liver disease or conditions which affect the liver (like cirrhosis) can increase production of estrogen. Obesity, or being significantly overweight, is linked to higher levels of estrogen within the body. Any disease of surgery which impairs or prevents the function of the testicles can result in an increased risk of developing breast cancer for men. As well, radiation therapy which has targeted the chest area can increase risk.
Another major risk factor is a family history of cancer. Especially if the common type in your family is breast cancer and the affected relative is immediate. Our last article, The Importance of Genetic Testing, covers the implications of a family history rife with cancer diagnoses. If this is your situation, your doctor may recommend you undergo genetic testing. This testing will expose the presence of inherited genetic mutations which might leave you at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The primary genetic mutations which contribute to breast cancer development are BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Men are more likely to have a lump which can be felt as a symptom of their breast cancer. This lump will, most often, be painless to the touch. Other than this, most men's breast cancer symptoms lineup with women’s’. You should look for a lump or thickening of the breast tissue. There may be alterations to one’s nipple, such as puckering, dimpling, redness, and scaling. As well, there may be discharge coming from one or both nipples. Since men aren’t taught to check themselves for breast cancer, breast cancer is often diagnosed at a later stage than women. This is why it’s important to visually and physically assess your body for sudden changes.
The process for diagnosing breast cancer is the same among both men and women. After an initial physical examination, a mammogram will be ordered. After the mammogram, typically an ultrasound is next. This is followed by an MRI and blood tests. Then, usually, a biopsy. From here, treatment paths can diverge widely depending on the results of these tests, the type of cancer, and whether the cancer has spread. Further tests will be required to determine where the cancer has spread, if so. Then, further testing will determine when the cancer cells have certain receptors (i.e. estrogen, progesterone, human epidermal growth factor type two). Based on the results of these tests, your doctor may recommend a variety of treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or another targeted therapy.
Survival rates are relative and based on the overall population. Instead of being grouped into the AJCC TNM stages (i.e. stage one, stage two, etc.), survival rates based on the SEER database classify patients into three types. The first type is localized and refers to cancer which has not spread outside of its original formation spot. The second type is regional and refers to cancer which has spread to the area surrounding the formation spot. The third type is distant and refers to cancer which has spread throughout the body. These rates are relative because an eighty-percent five-year survival rate means a patient is eighty percent likely, on average, to live another five years as someone who does not have the same type of cancer. These numbers apply to when the cancer is first diagnosed and do not take into account circumstantial factors (e.g. age and lifestyle), nor certain genetic and protein-based mutations within someone’s cancer. Therefore, it's best you review these numbers with your healthcare provider to have a better understanding of your survival rate.
The five-year survival rate for cancer diagnoses in the localized stage is ninety-seven percent. The five-year survival rate for cancer diagnoses in the regional stage is eighty-three percent. And the five-year survival rate for cancer diagnoses in the distant stage is twenty-two percent. These numbers are comparative to women’s survival rates, as well. Given the vast differences in survival rates between the localized and distant stages, early diagnosis is the most significant determining factor in survival rate. As we mentioned above, men are often diagnosed in later stages than women because they are unaware they need to be checking themselves for breast cancer. This is why male breast cancer awareness is so important.
Providing support and resources to our male Warriors is of the utmost importance to us. Dealing with breast cancer is difficult enough and men who have been diagnosed can feel as though they do not have a community to turn to. We’re here to tell you that’s not true! You have us! We are here to provide both the information and treatment you need to face your diagnosis. The Breast Place offers several breast imaging services, including: mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRIs. We also offer family history and genetic testing services. We specialize in both malignant and benign tumors and will assist you with determining the best course of action following your test results. Reach out today if you have any questions or concerns! Until next time, thanks for reading!