Breast cancer in men is a rare disease, accounting for approximately 1% of all breast cancer cases. Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than in men. All people whether male or female develop breasts. A male breast is similar to the breast of a girl before puberty. Only that in females, the breast develops and produces milk.
The male breast comprises of tissues like the female breast and so makes it possible to develop cancer. Men may have breast cancer when they detect a hard lump under the nipple or areola. Men tend to delay going to the doctor until they have more severe symptoms like bleeding from the nipple and other nipple discharges. Although this might be because a man’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is about 1/10 of 1%, or one in 1,000 and breast cancer incidence rates in men remained fairly stable over the past 30 years. The risk of breast cancer in men increases by the following:
- Elevated oestrogen levels
- Hereditary factors
- Testicular disorders (e.g., cryptorchidism, mumps orchitis, and orchiectomy)
- Radiation exposure.
- History of Prostate cancer
- Occupational exposures (e.g., electromagnetic fields, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and high temperatures),
- Dietary factors (e.g., meat intake and fruit and vegetable consumption), alcohol intake.
Since breast cancer in men is not common but possible, the most common clinical sign of breast cancer is a painless firm mass located just below the nipple. Other notable breast changes that may indicate breast cancer include:
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin,
- Nipple retraction,
- Nipple discharge
- Swollen areolar
- Itchy of nipples and areolar
Male Breast Cancer (type)
- Infiltrating ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer in men and women. The term infiltrating means that the cancer cells have spread beyond the ducts into the surrounding tissue.
- Ductal carcinoma refers to cancers with origins in the ducts (tubular structures) of the breast.
- Lobular cancers (cancers of the milk glands), common in women, are extremely rare in men since male breast tissue does not normally contain lobules.
Other less common types of cancers of the breast include ductal carcinoma in situ (cancer in the ducts that has not spread beyond the ducts themselves).
A doctor who carefully palpates the breast and areola for a lump, mass or tumour. The doctor inserts a needle into the mass to withdraw tissue from the suspicious area through a procedure doctors know as fine needle aspiration or needle biopsy. Microscopic examination of the tissue by a pathologist establishes the diagnosis.
Stages of Male Breast Cancer
To determine the level of metastases, certain procedures like x-rays, doctors can do magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound scans to stage cancer.
- Stage 0
This refers to intraductal carcinoma or ductal cancer in situ, in which the cancer cells have not spread beyond the boundaries of the ducts themselves.
- Stage I
In this stage, the tumour is 2 cm or less in greatest diameter and has not spread to the lymph nodes or to other sites in the body.
- Stage II
These cancers are divided into two groups.
Stage IIA cancer is less than 2cm in size and has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
Stage IIB this cancer is between 2 cm-5 cm in size and have spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
· Stage III
This is considered to be locally advanced cancer and is divided into two:
Stage IIIA means the tumor is smaller than 5 cm but has spread to the axillary lymph nodes
Stage IIIB tumors usually spread to surrounding tissues such as skin, chest wall, or to the lymph nodes inside the chest wall.
· Stage IV
This stage of cancer refers to metastatic cancer i.e. it has spread to other parts of the body. Metastatic cancer are often found in the bones, lungs, liver, or brain. It may also reoccur in and spread to involve areas of the chest wall, skin, and muscles, as well as more distant lymph nodes.
Treatment of Breast Cancer in Men
Most of all, early screening and detection is key to the treatment of breast cancer. Just like breast cancer in women, treatment depends on the staging process and overall physical condition of the patient. The most common surgical treatment of breast cancer is radical mastectomy, which involves the (removal of the breast, lining over the chest muscles, and portions of the underarm or axillary lymph nodes).
Other adjuvant therapies used are:
- Chemotherapy: This involves the use of drugs to slow down the growth of cancerous cells.
- Radiotherapy: This therapy aims at killing cancerous cells and tissues with high-density energy radiation waves.
- Hormone therapy: It prevents hormones from the stimulation the growth of certain cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: Involves agents that specifically target one of the cancer-specific changes in cells.
The following can help reduce the risk of cancer;
- Routine self breast examination
- Watch for rapid weight gain.
- Avoid sedentary lifestyle and take part in moderate exercises
- Watch your cholesterol levels and your weight.
- Adequate diet with fruits and vegetables should be embraced.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Routine medical checks should be done
In conclusion, although breast cancer in men is not common, it is possible. Hence, men should be vigilant and take good care of themselves.