Breast Cancer Symptoms in Men
There is a common misconception that men cannot have breast cancer. Men often ignore the symptoms of cancer or mistake them for other illnesses. Factors such as social stigma and embarrassment contribute to the increasing denial among men of the possibility of getting cancer of the breast The development of male cancer ( of the breast) is largely similar to what women encounter. Males around the ages of sixty and seventy are more prone to the incidence of this type of cancer than any other age group.
The latest American Cancer Society estimates for male breast cancer shows that in 2009 about 1,910 cases will be diagnosed with about 440 fatalities. Approximately one percent of the cancer cases, cancer of the breast cases, affect men. The lifetime risk for developing this type of cancer is at about one in a thousand. Recent studies also shows that the prognosis for this type of cancer for both men and women remains the same and the outlook is still hinged on what stage the cancer was diagnosed.
As in any other cancer, early detection and treatment is vital to an individual’s survival. Thus, men are encouraged to be more aware of the cancer’s signs and symptoms. Educating males in combating the social stigma brought about by cancer also assist in helping men against this type of cancer.
Detecting breast cancer in men
Knowledge and awareness on the signs and symptoms of cancer are very valuable in delivering the earliest possible detection and treatment for men with this cancer of the breast. Here are some of the symptoms associated with cancer of the breast.
- Painless development of lump or thickening of the breast
- Scaling and redness of the nipple and surrounding area
- Indentation or retraction in the nipple area
- Bloody or clear nipple discharge
There are several factors that increase the risk of men getting cancer of the breast. Some of which like genetics and age are uncontrollable. However, some risk factors such as poor diet, alcohol consumption and smoking can be controlled, so it best to learn what we need to avoid. Below is a list of breast cancer risk factors in men.
- The average age of male breast cancer diagnosis is sixty-seven and breast cancer commonly occurs in men between the ages of sixty and seventy.
- One in five men with breast cancer had a female relative who had breast cancer too.
- Those who have undergone prior radiation treatment on the chest area have a greater likelihood for breast cancer.
- About five to ten percent of male breast cancers are inherited. Genetic defects on the CHEK-2, p53 tumor suppressor, BRCA2 and BRCA1 genes increases a person’s cancer risk. These genes usually help prevent cancer by keeping cells from growing abnormally.
- Those who had a history of Klinefelter syndrome, a congenital abnormality wherein males had an extra X chromosome resulting to lower levels of male hormones and increased female hormones.
- Those who had taken estrogen-related drugs have a higher risk for breast cancer. Breast cancer cells are known to have estrogen receptors which improve the cancer’s ability to progress.
- Those who had liver diseases are also at risk as the body’s estrogen activity increases while the androgen activity reduces when a person is experiencing liver diseases, such as cirrhosis of the liver.
- Those who are obese may also be at risk for male breast cancer due to increased number of fat cells. Fat cells produce estrogen from androgen, thus increasing the estrogen concentration in the body.
- Excessive alcohol drinking also promotes breast cancer in men mainly due to the fact that alcohol consumption increases liver diseases and fat accumulation.
Treatment options for cancer of the breast in men
There are a number of treatment methods available for men with cancer of the breast. These methods do not differ from those done for women. Cancer staging is done to determine the best breast cancer treatment option a patient needs. Here are some of the treatment options available.
Surgery – There are several surgical options used to remove breast cancer in men these include simple mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy. Simple mastectomy involves removal of all breast tissue including lobules, ducts, fatty tissue and skin including the nipple and areola.
In a modified radical mastectomy, the surgeon removes the entire breast and a portion of the underarm lymph nodes. The surgeon may also remove chest wall muscle if the cancer has spread to that area. The lymph nodes will be examined to check if the cancer has spread and additional treatment is necessary.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a procedure developed to locate sentinel nodes, lymph nodes receiving drainage from a breast tumor. Sentinel nodes are removed for biopsy to check for cancer development to the other lymph nodes. This procedure decreases the risk of complications as removal of a single node is necessary for examination.
Radiation Therapy – High energy x-rays are used to kill cancer cells during a radiation therapy. Administered by a radiation oncologist, the therapy is commonly done before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to eliminate remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often painless but may result in tiredness in men who had undergone therapy and tenderness of the breast.
- Hormone Therapy
- Biological Therapy
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body after breast cancer surgery. The treatment is usually scheduled every two to three weeks after surgery for about three to six months.
Chemotherapy may be administered intravenously or in pill form. Most patients choose oral chemotherapy as this reduces the need to visit the clinic and can be done at home.
Some chemotherapies target the cancer itself reducing damage to healthy cells. Still, side affects like hair loss, fatigue, vomiting and loss of cognitive abilities may occur.
Estrogen receptor positive breast cancers rely on estrogen to induce the development of breast cancer cells. Hormone therapy is administered in order to prevent estrogen from bonding to sites in the body where cancer cells may have spread. The male hormone, androgen also helps in the growth of cancer cells. Thus, limiting both estrogen and androgen levels are essential in abating the spread of cancer cells.
In biological therapy, a biological response modifier is used to stimulate the body’s immune system to combat cancer. This helps in enhancing the body’s natural defense against specific diseases such as cancer. However, biological therapy is still in clinic trials.
You do not want any type of cancer to reach these stages. This is why it is extremely essential that you go and see a doctor as soon as possible, the moment you see any of these possible cancer symptoms given above manifesting themselves. Listen to your body “talk”, and follow the signs.
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