Male Breast Cancers – What Should You Know About It?
Male breast cancers or malignancy of breast are rare occurrence. Most cases are reported in elderly males (over 65 years of age), but it can also occur in younger males.
As we are celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is important to equally pay attention to small lumps or swelling in male breasts to detect early malignancies. Fortunately, prognosis is usually good in early stage malignancies and 5-year survival rate is as high as 100%. The prognosis worsens with the staging of cancer; mid-stage breast malignancy has a 5-year survival rate of 72-91% and advanced breast malignancy has a 5-year survival rate of 20%.
The lifetime risk of developing cancer of breast in males is 0.00001%. According to latest statistics reported by American Cancer Society, more than 1,990 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in males and over 480 males will succumb to this malignancy.
What Are Classic Symptoms Of Male Breast Cancers?
Classic symptoms are:
- Lump: Breast lump is the most common symptom of breast malignancy; regardless of gender.
- Nipple changes: Nipple related changes are less common and include, discharge from nipple, ulceration or retraction of nipple
Signs of advanced breast cancer malignancy include pain, spread of cancer to bones and surrounding tissues, enlargement of lymph nodes etc.
What Are Some Risk Factors That Can Aggravate The Risk Of Developing Male Breast Cancers?
It is not known what causes male breast cancer, but scientists have discovered that about 90% of all male breastcancers are responsive to estrogen. This also means that these cancers grow under the influence of estrogen secreted by the human body.
Other risk factors are:
- Inheritance of certain genes can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, 1 in 5 males who develops cancer of breast have at least 1 first-degree relative with cancer of breast (such as brother, uncle, father etc.)
- Men with Klinefelter’s syndrome are 20 times higher risk of developing breast cancer than other men of the same age group.
- Inheritance of BRCA2 gene mutation is reported in about 5% males who develop breast cancer.
How To Manage Male Breast Cancers?
Male breast cancer is usually managed by surgery (modified radical mastectomy). The process involves partial surgical excision of breast tissue along with axillary lymph nodes.
Hormone responsive breast cancers are managed by estrogen blocking hormone therapy. The goal of this therapy is to block the activity of estrogen receptors to control the growth of cancer tissue. This include drugs like aromatase inhibitors and Tamoxifen.
Hormone non-responsive cancer cells does not respond to hormone therapies. In all such cases, chemotherapy is utilized either as an adjuvant to surgery or in cases when surgery is not possible.
Early detection of cancer of breast can improve survival and reduce the risk of complication. If you have a family history of breast cancer in your family, look for breast lumps or swelling to detect cancer in its early stage.
- Brinton, L. A., Cook, M. B., McCormack, V., Johnson, K. C., Olsson, H., Casagrande, J. T., … & Gaziano, J. M. (2014). Anthropometric and hormonal risk factors for male breast cancer: male breast cancer pooling project results. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 106(3), djt465.
- Ruddy, K. J., & Winer, E. P. (2013). Male breast cancer: risk factors, biology, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. Annals of oncology, 24(6), 1434-1443.