Male Breast Cancer; What's to know?

It’s not an unusual question to ask,”Can men get breast cancer?” the plain answer is yes.

Male breast cancer is a relatively rare cancer but one that doctors often diagnose in the later stages. Knowing how to recognize the signs can help a person get early treatment.
Male breast cancer accounts for fewer than 1% of all cancer diagnoses worldwide.

In 2020, about 2,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed, and about 490 men will die from breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Male breast cancers usually have excellent outlooks if the cancer is detected early. However, early diagnosis is not always possible.

One factor in diagnosis delay is a lack of awareness. Many women know what signs and changes that could indicate breast cancer, it’s not the same for men. Hence, making early diagnosis rarely occurring in men. There is less awareness among men which means they are less likely to seek help in the early stages.

Breast cancer can also affect males differently, as they have a small amount of breast tissue in comparison with females. This can make it easier to detect small lumps, but it also means that the cancer has less room to grow within the breast. As a result, it may spread more quickly to nearby tissues.

For these and other reasons, around 40% of men with breast cancer receive a diagnosis in stage 3 or 4, when the disease has already spread to other parts of the body. As a result, overall survival rates are lower for men than for women.

The most common symptoms of male breast cancer are:

  • A lump or swelling that is usually, but not always, painless
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Nipple retraction
  • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple

If cancer spreads, additional symptoms may include:

  • swelling in the lymph glands, in or near the underarm area
  • breast pain
  • bone pain

Risk Factors

One major risk factor that increases the risk of breast cancer for both men and women is aging. Generally, the risk of breast cancer for a man goes up as they age.

Family history is important, too, as breast cancer risk is higher if other members of the family have had the disease. About 20 percent of men with breast cancer have a family history of it.

It is essential to seek help as soon as a person notices changes. Early stage breast cancer responds well to treatment.

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