Breast cancer in men is a rare occurrence: recent figures demonstrate that while 1 in 8 women can develop breast cancer, only 1 in 1,000 men is likely to contract it over their lifetime. However, due to the stigma associated with contracting something that is typically – and erroneously – seen as a ‘female’ ailment means that men who do contract breast cancer are far less likely to get themselves checked out early enough to get it successfully treated.
While there have been significant advances in encouraging men to be open and aware of other cancers, especially prostate and testicular cancer, the stigmas around breast cancer still persist. It seems that certain men are unaware that, yes, they have breast tissue too, and they need to be as aware of changes in that area as women are. So, let’s break down some of the facts about male breast cancer.
What are the symptoms of male breast cancer?
These can include:
- A hard, painless lump in the breast area
- A nipple that has inverted
- Nipple discharge which may or may not be streaked with blood
- Soreness and/or a rash around the nipple
Please bear in mind that male breast cancer is an extremely rare condition, but it’s always wise to get checked out by your GP if you suffer from any conditions – particularly if you have a lump in the breast area, have nipple discharge and have a close family history of breast cancer.
What are the causes of male breast cancer?
Due to the rare nature of the condition, it has proven difficult to pinpoint clear links between certain behaviours and male breast cancer. However, there are certain clear links, which include;
- Family history and genes, namely in instances where faulty versions of genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been inherited, which increase the risk of breast cancer
- The taking of medicines that increase the amount of oestrogen taken into the body, such as hormone treatments which are sometimes used to treat prostate cancer
- Lifestyle habits that increase oestrogen levels, particularly obesity and developing cirrhosis through drinking
- Previous exposure to radiotherapy in the chest area
What are the treatments for male breast cancer?
If you are diagnosed with male breast cancer, there are a range of treatments, depending on how advanced the condition is. Possible treatments include a mastectomy, which will remove the affected breast tissue and nipple, and certain glands in the armpit, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.
Is male breast cancer survivable?
Like other cancers, the answer is yes – as long as the cancer is detected early enough. If caught at an early stage, a full recovery is possible. If the cancer isn’t detected until it has spread beyond the breast, a cure becomes more complicated
The two things that any man needs to take away from this information is that male breast cancer is far rarer than the female variety, and that an awareness of any changes in the area and a willingness to report it to a clinic are absolutely crucial.