The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of male breast cancer, highlighting symptoms, stages, risk factors, and treatment options.
Above all, many adults are aware of the various types of cancers. An abundance
of medical information has been published with the intent of increasing cancer
awareness. The key to surviving this potentially deadly disease is receiving an
early diagnosis. Common cancers include color, ovarian, testicular, and
leukemia. However, little information is available on uncommon cancers. Thus,
individuals who develop one of many rare cancers may not seek the necessary
medical attention. These particular cancers are generally not diagnosed until
it reaches an advanced stage. Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of
cancer among women; however, breast cancer may also affect men. It accounts for
only 1% of all male cancers. If left untreated, male breast cancer kills.
What is Male Breast Cancer?
Male breast cancer occurs when cancerous cells develop within the tissue
lining the breast. Our bodies naturally produce healthy cells which are
intended to fight infections and keep us healthy. In some cases, cells divide
abnormally. The abnormal cells begin attacking healthy cells. These abnormal
cells are cancerous, and they can spread quickly throughout the body. As more
cancerous cells develop, a tumor or mass will form on the breast. This mass
will appear as a small lump.
Although male breast cancer is extremely rare, there are nearly 1,700 new
cases each year, and over 400 deaths. This number is small compared to the
40,000 women who die of breast cancer each year. However, women do have a
higher success rate because of routinely examining their breast for
abnormalities. Few men are aware that breast cancer may also affect males, thus
many do not check themselves for lumps or hard masses.
Causes of Male Breast Cancer
The cause of female and male breast cancers is similar. In both cases, males
and females generally have a family history of breast cancer. It has also been
noted that several men who develop breast cancer have a very strong family
history of breast cancer. For example, their mother and sister may have both
had the disease, or they could have an unusual high number of female relatives
that suffer from the disease.
Men who have been exposed to radiation are also at risk of
developing male breast cancer. This includes the radiation exposure that may
have occurred from radiation therapy to treat cancers. In other words, males who
received radiation therapy to treat another form of cancer like testicular, are
placed at a greater risk of also developing breast cancer.
High estrogen levels in males also place men at risk of
developing male breast cancer. Low levels of estrogen are common in males.
However, due to certain medical conditions, males may produce more than the
normal levels of this hormone.
Klinefelter's Syndrome: Ordinarily, men's bodies are
comprised of two chromosomes. They inherit an X chromosome from their mother, and
a Y chromosome from their father. In rare cases, a male may inherit an
additional X chromosome from their mother. Instead of having the normal XY sex
chromosome, men with Klinefelter's syndrome will have an XXY sex chromosome.
The extra X chromosome results in an increase estrogen level, which is a huge
contributing factor of breast cancer.
Cirrhosis of the Liver: There is scarring of the liver with
this condition. Cirrhosis is caused by alcohol abuse, viral hepatitis, or the
buildup of toxic substances in the liver. Toxic substances may include an
overdose of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Men with cirrhosis
of the liver may experience distorted levels of estrogen and testosterone. This
may include an increase in the level of estrogen that the body produces.
Three Types of Male Breast Cancer
carcinoma: Cancer that has extended outside of the breast lining.
Ductal carcinoma in
situ: This occurs when cancerous cells are discovered in the
lining of the intraductal carcinoma.
cancer: Breast cancer in which the breasts appear red, enlarged,
This cancer occurs when a tumor develops on the surface of the nipple.
Signs of Male Breast Cancer
Common symptoms of male breast cancer include:
Hard, painless lump
Change in size of
Nipple discharge or
Scaly skin on nipple
Redness on breast or
Males who experience one or more of these symptoms should seek medical
attention. Although male breast cancer is rare, delaying treatment will make it
difficult to cure this illness. The procedure to diagnose male breast cancer is
a biopsy. During a biopsy, a thin needle is inserted into the lump. Tissue
samples are removed from the lump for examination. In some cases, doctors will
remove the entire lump. The sample is observed by a pathologist. Once male
breast cancer is confirmed, the next step is determining the stage of cancer.
This information is essential for choosing the most effective treatment.
Stages of Breast Cancer
Male and female breast cancer consists of five stages. Doctors determine
stages based on the size of tumors, and whether cancer is present in other
areas of the body. The stages of breast cancer include:
Stage 0: Cancerous cells develop; tumors have not formed.
Stage 1: The tumor is smaller than 2 centimeters, and
cancer has not spread to surrounding tissues and organs.
Stage 2: The tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters, and cancer
has spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 3: Advanced stage in which cancer has spread to
surrounding tissues such as skin, chest wall, and rib cage.
Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body and
may affect the brain, bones, liver, or lungs.
Treatment of Male Breast Cancer
The initial treatment of male breast cancer includes surgery.
Surgery consists of removing the cancerous lump, entire breast, or/and lymph
nodes. In the beginning stages of cancer, doctors will likely only remove the
tumor. Patients may also undergo chemotherapy (drugs that are
intended to stop the growth of cancerous cells) or radiation therapy
(high energy rays intended to shrink tumors). The purpose of additional
treatment is to destroy any remaining cancerous cells. A mastectomy is
preformed when cancer is widespread.