Breast Cancer Man

According to the American Cancer Society, male breast cancer affects less than 1 percent of men in the U.S. and accounts for less than 1 percent of all diagnosed breast cancers (2009). The average age for diagnosis is about 63 years — ten years later than for women. Recent literature on breast cancer indicates that, when matched stage for stage, female and male breast cancer patients have similar survival rates (2010).

Male Breast Cancer SymptomsThe Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer

Signs of breast cancer in men are comparable to those in women. Most male breast cancer is detected as a lump in one breast under the areola. The male breast lump is typically hard and firmly attached to surrounding tissue. Other signs include a nipple discharge or inversion, either of which warrants an immediate examination. Open sores on the skin that become inflamed should be examined as well.

One of the important signs of breast cancer is swollen lymph nodes in the armpits (these are called “axillary” lymph nodes). Sometimes, swollen lymph nodes are the very first sign of a tumor. However, lymph nodes can become swollen for other reasons. Your doctor should examine any swollen axillary lymph nodes immediately.

Male breast cancer was initially thought to be more aggressive and less survivable than breast cancer in females. However, extensive recent research has proven this to be false.

Men present difficulties for diagnosticians in that not all swellings are malignant tumors. Gynecomastia–the benign development of breast tissue in men–is sometimes mistaken for a malignancy until biopsy and tissue analysis are completed. Because gynecomastia is more common than male breast cancer, it must be ruled out before a breast cancer diagnosis is confirmed.

Male Breast Cancer Risk Factors

The development of breast cancer in men is influenced by many risk factors, including:

  • Age: Most cases of the disease occur later in life, particularly after age 65.
  • Genetics: As in women, abnormal genes can trigger breast cancer in men. Also, men with certain genetic conditions may be at higher risk for breast cancer, and these conditions don’t exist or may not be a factor in women. For example, men born with an extra X chromosome (XXY) are at a slightly higher risk for gynecomastia and for developing breast cancer.
  • Health history: Men who have contracted mumps orchitis (swollen testicles caused by the mumps virus) after age 20 appear to be at greater risk for breast cancer.
  • Hormone levels: Increased estrogen levels and decreased testosterone levels may also be linked to an increased incidence of the disease.

Resources

American Cancer Society. (2009). Breast cancer facts and figures 2009-2010. Retrieved October 22, 2010 from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@nho/documents/document/f861009final90809pdf.pdf

American Cancer Society. (2010). Breast cancer in men. Retrieved October 22, 2010 from http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancerinMen/DetailedGuide/

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Orchitis. Retrieved October 26, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/orchitis/DS00602