In the month of October, We spread a word for Breast Cancer Awareness worldwide. Male breast cancer is fact but often overlooked as if it does not exist in reality. Breast cancer is observed mostly in females but is one of the rare cancers that occurs in males and is not discussed most of the time.
Roughly 2,550 cases of male breast cancer were diagnosed in the year 2018 and had caused 480 deaths. Male breast cancer can occur at any age but studies indicate that most of the cases are diagnosed in 60-70 year of age.
Like females, males do have a little breast tissue with few ducts (rarely nodules) near areola and they secrete a small amount of female hormone but not that can grow breasts. Type of breast cancer diagnosed in males includes lobular carcinoma, infiltrating ductal carcinoma, inflammatory breast cancer or cancer that occurs due to the Paget’s disease in the nipple. If left undiagnosed it can metastasize via lymph nodules.
Breast cancer diagnosis in both females and males remains almost the same symptoms are – painful lump in the breast, armpit or the surrounding region, fluid or blood leak from nipples, dry and scaly patches around the breast region. Breast tumors can be well identified with X-rays or felt a lump in the chest.
Risk factors for breast cancer in males are:
Old age – Breast cancer in males is diagnosed around the age of 60s.
History of breast cancer in the family, first and second-degree relatives both males and females.
Inheritance of genetic mutations in men like the BRCA2 gene has increased the risk of breast cancer for a lifetime. BRCA1 gene can also cause breast cancer in male but the risk is lower. Mutations in CHEK2, PTEN, PALB2 genes might increase the chance of cancer in males.
Hormonal therapy like the use of estrogen-based drugs in the treatment of prostate cancer can slightly increase risk. High doses of estrogen used as a part of sex realignment surgery in transgender also have a higher risk (still under research).
Other medical conditions like – Klinefelter syndrome where there is an extra X chromosome in males. The genetic composition is XXY in male and is infertile; have more of estrogens in the body than androgens which results in gynecomastia (benign male breast growth).
Liver disease – Liver hormones are important to balance sex hormones in the body. Prolonged liver disease like cirrhosis due to excessive alcohol consumption where there is zero function can increase levels of estrogens that cause gynecomastia which increases the risk of male breast cancer.
Any testicular disease or surgery can increase your risk of breast cancer.
Diagnosis of breast cancer at an early stage in men increases the chance of survival with better overall health.
There are no actual screening programs for a male like that exist for females on a regular basis, we need to work more towards that cause. If you have a strong family history of cancer it is advised to consult a doctor and go for a genetic counseling appointment to check your genetic risk for developing breast cancer.
By: Ruchi Talati