Men are developing breast cancer at a faster rate, and here's why it's dangerous

Men are developing breast cancer at a faster rate, and here's why it's dangerous

Awareness is half battle won against breast cancer.

Astonishingly, even men are susceptible to breast cancer just like women are.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year itself and 460 men will die from breast cancer. What needs to be known is that breast cancer is much less common in men — 1 in 1,000. Yet it's important for men to know that they are also at risk of getting breast cancer so that they can be aware of the symptoms and the problem in hand.


According to Gary Larson, Medical Director, Procure Proton Therapy Center, Oklahoma City, approximately 1% of all breast cancer cases belong to males. In an article published in Forbes, Gary explained how he witnesses close to 100 female breast cancer cases per year. Surprisingly, there are 350 cases of male breast cancer detected every year.


Even though men don't possess breasts like women, they do have a tiny amount of breast tissue which ceases to develop as men grow older. The 'breasts' of an adult man are similar to the breasts of a girl before she reaches puberty. Male breasts generally stay the same, with few cases of an exception here and there.


However, with the presence of the breast tissue, men are also at a risk of developing the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Men get the same type of breast cancer that women do, but cancer involving the mammary glands is absent in male cases. The good news is that most men are able to survive breast cancer. In Australia, 85% of men diagnosed with breast cancer were alive even five years later. They also tend to completely recover with almost zero cases of relapse.


If you did not know about the existence of male breast cancer, here are few commonly asked questions about the same that can help you understand the disease better.


What is the age group at risk of developing breast cancer?

It is rare for a man below 35 years to get breast cancer. But the risk goes up with age. Most breast cancer cases seen so far have affected men between the age group of 60 and 70.


Who are at high risk of developing breast cancer?

Men who are at a potential risk of developing breast cancer are those who:

1. Have a female relative who suffers from breast cancer.
2. Have a history of radiation exposure of the chest.
3. Suffer from enlargement of breasts (gynecomastia) from drug or hormone treatments and infections.
4. Have taken estrogen supplements.
5. Suffer from a rare genetic condition called Klinefelter's syndrome—a genetic condition in which a male is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome.
6. Suffer from cirrhosis—a chronic liver disease.
7. Suffer from diseases of the testicles such as mumps orchitis, a testicular injury, or an undescended testicle.


How serious is breast cancer in men?

The seriousness of breast cancer in both men and women is the same. But the diagnosis in men for breast cancer is delayed due to the rarity of occurrence in men.


What makes the detection of breast cancer in men even more difficult is the presence of a small amount of breast tissue that makes it harder to feel, thus making it all the more difficult to discern the cancer gene early. This can also lead to the tumor spreading more quickly to the surrounding tissues.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer in men?

 The symptom of breast cancer remains the same in both males and females — presence of a lump. However, the lump is not easily discernible in men, leading to the development of a more severe symptom such as bleeding from the nipples, which is too late then.

How is breast cancer diagnosed in men?

The same methods used for detection of breast cancer in females is used for breast cancer diagnosis in men —mammography and biopsy. Needle aspiration or surgical biopsy used for collecting and testing the tissue for cancer cells is another way for detecting the cancer gene in men.


How is breast cancer treated in men?

Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, biological and hormone therapy are the methods used for treating breast cancer in men and women. The one major difference in treatment for men is that they respond better to hormone therapy than women do. About 90% of male breast cancers have hormone receptors which means that hormone therapy works in most male breast cancer cases to treat cancer cells.

Awareness is the key and just like breast cancer in females, male breast cancer is widely becoming common too.


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