The Breast Cancer Few People Talk About
During October, which is breast cancer awareness month, you will hear a lot about how one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and that it is the second leading cause of death among women. But did you know that breast cancer can also occur in men? In 2015, about 2,350 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S.
Men and women are both born with breast tissue and cells, which is why both genders are at risk of developing breast cancer. That said, breast cancer is much rarer in men, affecting one in 1,000 (it often occurs in older men, but not exclusively). Like breast cancer in women, the prognosis is good if it’s caught early. But because of the lack of awareness, many men dismiss early symptoms and signs of breast cancer, resulting in a late diagnosis after the cancer has spread. And while women get mammograms, there is not a routine screening for male breast cancer. This is why it is especially important to know the signs. Symptoms of male breast cancer include:
- Painless lump or thickening in breast tissue
- Changes to the skin covering your breast, like dimpling, redness or scaling
- Changes to your nipple, such as redness or it begins to turn inward
- Discharge from your nipple
The cause of male breast cancer is unknown, but risk factors include high levels of the hormone estrogen, a family history of breast cancer and mutations to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Other risk factors include exposure to radiation, obesity (a higher number of fat cells may result in increased estrogen) and liver disease.
Male breast cancer is usually treated by surgically removing the breast tissue and specific lymph nodes. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy may also be used to treat male breast cancer. Awareness is key to early detection. Men and women should be sure to give themselves regular self-examinations to know when there is a change.
Are you or a loved one battling breast cancer? These blogs may help you with the challenges:
- Ways to Support a Friend in Breast Cancer Treatment
- The Grieving Process of a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
- Life After Breast Cancer: Coping With Your Anxiety
Photo credit:Will Foster