Breast cancer is a health issue that is commonly associated with women. However, breast cancer can also affect men. The frequency of breast cancer cases in men may be significantly less compared to women, but it is still a risk for men between 60 and 70 years of age.
There are three types of breast cancer that typically affect men. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer to occur in men, is cancer that spreads beyond the ducts lining a man’s breast tissue. Ductal carcinoma in situ refers to the duct, also called interductal carcinoma. Inflammatory breast cancer is the second type of cancer typically found in men; this form of breast cancer causes the breast to turn red and become warm to the touch. Finally, Paget disease of the nipple is a type of breast cancer also found in men; it causes a tumor to grow in the ducts beneath the nipple into the tissue of the nipple.
Because it is so rare, breast cancer in men is usually not included in clinical trials, and it is treated the same way in men as it is in women. There is an effort to actively include male breast cancer patients in research, but since it is so rare, only affecting 2,000 patients annually, it can be difficult to find subjects for clinical trials.
Since it is commonly viewed as a disease that affects women, men may think it’s nothing if they find a small lump in their breast. Typically, breast cancer in men is painless, so it tends to not be a concern they bring up with the physician until the lump becomes painful.
There are a number of factors that can cause a man to develop breast cancer, such as family history, exposure to radiation, and having high levels of estrogen in their body. Some male breast cancer patients have hereditary gene mutations. This type of breast cancer makes up five to 10% of all cases in men. That’s why it’s recommended when women in a family have a risk of breast cancer that men undergo genetic testing to see if they carry the same genetic mutations.
There are a number of ways to test and diagnose breast cancer in men. A physical exam to check for lumps is one way. While many men may feel embarrassed going for a clinical breast exam, this is another way to diagnose breast cancer. Ultrasound exams and MRIs are two more less-invasive ways to test for breast cancer in men. Blood chemistry studies can also be used. In some cases, it may be necessary to perform a biopsy.
Once a diagnosis is made, it must be determined how quickly the cancer will grow and how likely it is that it will spread through the body. From there, tests are done to determine what treatments will work and what the likelihood may be of it reoccurring.
Whether or not breast cancer in men can be treated effectively comes down to how quickly it is diagnosed. Like breast cancer in women, breast cancer in men must be caught early in order to be treated effectively.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Breast Cancer — Men Get It Too,” United States Food and Drug Administration web site, June 27, 2014; http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm402937.htm.
“General Information About Male Breast Cancer,” National Cancer Institute web site, May 23, 2014; http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malebreast/Patient/page1, last accessed July 15, 2014.
Preidt, R., “Men Develop Breast Cancer Too,” MedlinePlus web site, July 7, 2014; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_147178.html.