Understanding breast cancer in men

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Tracey O’Neal

From: scnow.com

Male breast cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. The disease is considered rare, with less than 1 percent of all breast cancers occurring in men.

Additionally, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer for men is approximately 1 in 833, according to the American Cancer Society. Nationally, 2,550 men were expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. Of the 341 cases of breast cancer diagnosed at McLeod Regional Medical Center in 2017, only six were in men.

Since men are not routinely screened for breast cancer, the disease tends to be more advanced in men than in women when it is first detected. Risk factors for male breast cancer to be aware of include:

  • Growing older.
  • High estrogen levels.
  • Klinefelter syndrome.
  • Strong family history of breast cancer or genetic mutations.
  • Radiation exposure to the chest.

Symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to those women experience. Signs to watch for include a lump felt in the breast; nipple pain, an inverted nipple, nipple discharge (clear or bloody); sores on the nipple and areola; or enlarged lymph nodes under the arm.

If breast cancer is suspected, a physician might order the following tests and procedures:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • Clinical breast exam.
  • Mammogram.
  • Ultrasound exam.
  • MRI.
  • Blood tests.
  • Biopsy

When breast cancer is detected in men, treatment is based on the results of these tests that provide information about how quickly the cancer might grow; how likely it is that the cancer will spread; how well certain treatments might work and how likely the cancer is to recur. Treatment options will also depend on:

  • The stage of the cancer.
  • Type of breast cancer.
  • Estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor levels in the tumor tissue.
  • Whether the cancer is found in the other breast.
  • >A man’s age and general health.

The standard treatment used to remove breast cancer in men can involve surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy. In men with early stage, localized breast cancer, surgical treatment is usually a modified radical mastectomy. However, breast conserving surgery with lumpectomy followed by radiation might be an option for some men.

Chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy appear to increase survival in men. In addition, hormone therapy is usually recommended for male breast cancer patients, because most breast cancers in men have hormone receptors in the tumor.