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How Does Male Breast Cancer Develop?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Male breast cancer seems impossible, doesn’t it? It is often thought of as a women-specific disease. Since men do not have breasts, the likelihood of them developing breast cancer is often overlooked. While  male breast cancer is rare as it accounts for only one percent of all cases reported, it is still a health risk. The lack of awareness about the incidence of  male breast cancer further compounds the problem. As most men do not worry about something being amiss with their virtually non-existent breasts, the concept of self-examination is unheard of, which often leads to a delayed diagnosis. Besides, the small amount of breast tissue in male bodies makes early detection of these cancers harder and increases the risk of malignancy spreading to the surrounding body tissues.

In the wake of these facts, debunking the myths around  male breast cancer becomes even more imperative. Here’s what you need to know about this rare condition:

Signs of Male Breast Cancer

How does male breast cancer develop?

Men do not have breasts, then how is it possible to develop cancer in an organ that does not even exist – that is the first question that comes to mind when the possibility of breast cancer in men is mentioned.

While it is true that men do not have breasts in the conventional sense, they do have some amount of breast tissue. The breast tissue in a man’s body is comparable to that of young girls before they hit puberty. In women, the breast tissue grows owing to hormonal changes, but in the case of men, it doesn’t.

Be that as it may, it’s still breast tissue, which means men too are at risk of developing malignant growth in this area.

Breast cancer is most often found in women, but men can get breast cancer too. About 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man. Risk factors include family history, BRCA gene mutation in family members. Early diagnosis and treatment will cure the disease by upto 90%.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Incidence of  Male Breast Cancer

As mentioned before, the likelihood of a man developing breast cancer is a lot less than a woman. The chances of men under 35 years of age developing breast cancer are minimal. The risk grows with age, and most breast cancers in men are reported between ages 60 to 70. Since there is often a delay in diagnosis, the possibility that cancer has been sitting around for some time before it is detected cannot be ruled out. Like all other forms of cancer, the exact cause of  male breast cancer remains elusive. However, some of the identified risk factors include:

  • History of breast cancer in the family
  • Chest exposure to radiation
  • Drugs or hormone treatment leading to breast enlargement
  • Klinefelter’s Syndrome, a rare genetic condition
  • Underlying medical conditions such as liver cirrhosis, testicular injury, or diseases like mumps orchitis
  • Consumption of Estrogen

Also Read: Itchy Nipple: Potential Causes and Management Options

Potential Signs of  Male Breast Cancer

–                   Finding a lump or a swelling which may be painless

–                   Dimpling or puckering of the skin around the breast region

–                   Nipples turning inwards or retracted

–                   The scaly skin around the breast and redness

–                   Some discharge from the nipples

At times this type of cancer spreads to the lymph nodes under the arms or even around the collarbone region. It occurs as swelling or lump. This may happen even before a tumor in the breast is found which is large enough to be noticed or felt.

However, not all of these changes may indicate male breast cancer. But if these changes do occur, one should consult their doctor.

If a male isn’t diagnosed with breast cancer but has a positive family history of breast, ovarian, pancreatic, or prostate cancer, or who has a family member who was found to have an inherited gene mutation that increases the risk of cancer, should also consider getting genetic testing, having first-degree relatives increase your chances of having breast cancer in the future.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Male Breast Cancer

Male breast cancer signs or the breast cancer presents the same symptoms in men as women, and the most telling sign is a lump in the chest. Many a time, men may not notice these unusual growths until they develop more alarming symptoms like bleeding from the nipples, which is often a sign that cancer has spread.

Like in women, male breast cancer is diagnosed through tests such as mammography and biopsy, besides physical examination. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, or biological therapy may be advised.

Even though  male breast cancer is rare, it doesn’t hurt to keep a vigilant eye on any unnatural developments in the body. Timely detection is often the best cure when it comes to cancer, as the odds of taming the growth of malignant cells and recovery are much higher in the initial stages.

Also Read: Male Yeast Infection: An In-depth Look at Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.


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