Can men develop breast cancer?

Breast cancer awareness for men
Breast cancer awareness for men

Although breast cancer occurs primarily in women, men can also develop the disease. Less than 1% of all cases of breast cancer occur in men. The disease usually develops in men aged 60 to 70 years. Most breast lumps in men are caused by gynecomastia, not cancer; however, men should still see a medical professional if they experience any of the following symptoms to rule out male breast cancer:

  • A lump or swelling in the chest area
  • Dimpled or puckered skin
  • A nipple that is inverted (facing inward)
  • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple

Male breast cancer stages, and the prognosis at each stage, are similar to breast cancer in females. However, important differences between male and female breast cancer affect stage at diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.  Men have less breast tissue. Although this makes feeling a mass easier, the mass can reach the skin or the underlying muscles with less growth. The result is that male breast cancers tend to be smaller than female breast cancers when they are found; however, they have often already spread beyond the breast.

A second key different is that breast cancer is rare among men. Most women are aware of breast cancer, whereas many men do not even know that it is possible for them to develop the disease. Therefore, men are more likely to ignore the symptoms.

Treatments for breast cancer are similar in both men and women because the types of breast cancer, staging, and patterns of how the disease spreads are similar. The treatment of choice is surgical removal of the cancerous tumor. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy are also used following surgery.

Source: Male breast cancer and common treatments. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Web site. Accessed September 21, 2011.

Types of breast cancer found in men

  • Infiltrating ductal carcinoma: Cancer that has spread beyond the cells lining ducts in the breast. Most men with breast cancer have this type of cancer.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ: Abnormal cells that are found in the lining of a duct; also called intraductal carcinoma.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer: A type of cancer in which the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm.
  • Paget disease of the nipple: A tumor that has grown from ducts beneath the nipple onto the surface of the nipple.

Source: General information about male breast cancer. National Cancer Institute Web site. Accessed September 21, 2011.

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