Men with Breast Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Survival Rate, Coping Tips

Breast cancer in men is very uncommon type of cancer that generally occurs in the breast tissue of men. These are formed in the tissues of the breast. Although breast cancer is primarily assumed to be found in women, it is also found in men though rare.

Men with breast cancer happen at an old age, but this fact is not always true. It can occur at any age.

Men with Breast Cancer

If the cancer is diagnosed when the stage is new and just developed cure is very much possible. But some men go unnoticed to any type of lump or symptoms of breast cancer and this delay can cost heavily at a later stage when things have gone out of hand.

What are the Causes for Breast Cancer in Men?

So what causes breast cancer in men? Doctors say that cancer is caused when abnormal cell division takes place in the body. That is sometimes the cells may multiply randomly at a rate more than the body allows. This abnormality causes a tumor that starts spreading all over the body to the near cells and other parts of the body.

What is the Location Where this Cancer Originates in Men?

All human beings both men and women have breast tissue. The function of this tissue is production of milk in the glands also known as lobules. This further carries the milk to the fats, nipples and wherever required. At the age of puberty females start developing these breast tissues in their body. On the contrary men don’t develop at the rate women do. This is how their body has been designed.

The various types of breast cancer occurring in men can be of the following types;

  • Ductal Carcinoma Cancer in Men: This is the most common type. It develops in the milk ducts. Almost all cancer occurring in men are of this type.
  • Lobular Carcinoma Cancer in Men: It develops in the glands that produce milk. Since men rarely develop this gland or tissue, hence this is very rare.
  • Paget’s Disease of the Nipple in Men: It is a type that occurs in the nipples of the breast. Here the cancer goes around the nipple giving it a rough and scaling look.

There are some genes that are muted resulting in the risk of a men with breast cancer. These are inherited from parents or forefathers. One of the gene named BRCA2, in general take up the cancer factor in men, namely prostate cancer or breast cancer.

These genes normally are in general meant to produce proteins. They prevent the abnormal growth of cells and their mutation. But sometimes they are not strong enough to resist the abnormal division of cells in the body.

A counselor who is an expert in the study of genes or a doctor can easily help you determine the gene factor and the risk of developing this cancer. This is important because unknowingly the genes may be carried forward to the children. The doctor here is the best help in terms of determine the risk factors.

What are the Symptoms for Men with Breast Cancer?

In general the signs and symptoms for men with breast cancer include:

  • A fat lump near your breast that is painless and starts growing.
  • The area near this lump or area around the breast thickens with redness, puckering and scaling effect.
  • The nipple starts turning inward and the change is noteworthy.
  • Certain discharge will definitely occur from the nipple.

When is Best Time to Consult a Doctor for Men with Breast Cancer?

If your symptoms or signs are giving you sleepless nights or any signs that seem disturbing, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

What are the Risk Factors for Men with Breast Cancer?

There are certain factors that develop the risk of occurrence of breast cancer in men. Here are some mentioned factors.

  • Your Age: The age of maximum number of cases for men with breast cancer is around 68 to 71. So with increase in age the risk cancer also increases.
  • Estrogen Exposure: This is a drug that increases cancer causing risk. Medicines with estrogen are generally used for change of sex or hormonal treatment. In these cases intake of such medicines increase the risk of breast cancer in men.
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome: In this case the genetic and chromosome misbalance causes such disorders. It occurs when a male child is born with an extra one copy of X chromosome. This causes an irregular development of the testes. In this case men develop less level of androgens i.e. the male hormone and more level of estrogens i.e. the female hormone.
  • Disease in the Liver: The condition of cirrhosis of the liver can cause a risk in breast cancer. In this condition the male hormones decrease and female hormone starts aggravating.
  • Obesity: The presences of fatty tissues convert male hormones to female hormones. The more the presence of fatty cells, the more risk of breast cancer in men.
  • Exposure to any high radiation: During testing or treatment of cancer where you have to receive radiation of any type like in the chest or somewhere near increases the risk factor of men with breast cancer.
  • Surgery in the testicles: Orchiectomy increases the risk factor of breast cancer. This s a case where testicles are inflamed and surgery is done to treat them.

Diagnosing Men with Breast Cancer

There are certain tests that the doctor may consult you to do before treating the men with breast cancer:

  • Examination of the breast: Just an initial physical examination is done to know what the state of the lump is. The doctor with his experience examines the area regarding how big it is, its scary effect and redness.
  • Test by image: In this case tests are done over the breast. These tests are mammogram or ultrasound. It takes images of the position and its suspicious mass.
  • Biopsy: Here a very thin needle is inserted into the mass or lump for a clear examination of it. A tissue is removed from the area for analysis. The microscopic tests and other biological evidence will finally prove whether you have cancer and its risk.

What is the Treatment for Men with Breast Cancer?

The first option a doctor takes up for treating men with breast cancer is the stage of the cancer and how has it progressed. Other factors involve the overall physical health conditions and other preferable criteria. For men with breast cancer the primary treatment involves surgery. Other options can also be taken into consideration.

Surgery for Breast Cancer in Men

The main consideration in surgery for men with breast cancer is simply cutting of the lump from the breast part. This is how it is done;

  • Modified radical mastectomy: Here the entire tissues surrounding the breast that takes into account the nipple and areola is simply removed. During the process nodes in the lymph near the underline area may also have to be removed.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy: During the initial stage from where the cancer seems to have originated is removed first. It is then that the nodes in the lymph are analyzed. However if no cancer cells are present after removal of the origination tissue then, further surgery is stopped.

Radiation Therapy for Treating Men with Breast Cancer

In this type of treatment alternative to surgery for men with breast cancer is exposure to radiation which kills the cancer cells. Here beams of high energy are thrown into the cancer cell region. Sometimes it may also be used after surgery to kill cancer cells that may have remained after surgery.

The beams of high energy are produced with a machine that is moved around the area and then pointed into the cancer cell location.

Chemotherapy for Treating Men with Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy can help in treating men with breast cancer. This is a treatment where intravenous treatment is provided into the body to counter the cancer cells. It may also be administered with pills.

Sometimes it may also be used after surgery to kill cancer cells that may have remained after surgery. It is advanced treatment to cope up with men with breast cancer.

Hormone Therapy for Treating Men with Breast Cancer

In most of the cases the men with breast cancer are sensitive to hormones. In this case doctors prefer hormone therapy. In this treatment tamoxifen medicine is used that is mainly a hormonal treatment for females.

Coping Tips for Men with Breast Cancer

This is the stage when a man with breast cancer who has undergone treatment with cancer is upset and mentally shocked. There are ways a man tends to cope up with the problems and challenges in life in context to cancer treatment.

  • Talk to friends: When you talk to friends give a great boost to your energy. Hanging out with friends or going around to a movie with them can be a great motivating factor. There are also groups that support cancer patients.
  • Meditation: This is being totally with oneself praying and meditating. You can also ask the help from your advisor or guide.
  • Physical Exercise: Physical exercise is important in a way that it refreshes your brain. It boosts up the body and mind.
  • Creativity activities: Certain creative activities like music, dance, scrap and hobbies may take off your mind from the stress and challenges. You may also consult a guide who can help you take this interest seriously.
  • Exercise that is relaxing and distressing: There are exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation, which help us focus our mind in goodness. It relaxes the body. You can also consult a doctor who can guide you through this. The body and mind are relaxed with these exercises.

Prognosis for Men with Breast Cancer

The prognosis for men with breast cancer is no less than in women. They both are equally inflected with it. Just the way the size, looks and weight of the tumor is the guiding factor of breast cancer in women, similar it is for men with breast cancer. The survival rates are also more or less the same. It is just that since men have less tissue in the breast area hence the spreading of cancer, is at a higher risk. For this reason men are diagnosed with cancer at a much advanced stage when the cancer has already spread in surrounding body parts.

Here are the survival rates for breast cancer in men for five years taken from historical data and statistics. This is in general done to diagnose a better chance for men with breast cancer.

  • 100 percent for stage 0
  • 100 percent for stage 1
  • 91 percent for stage 2
  • 72 percent for stage 3
  • 20 percent for stage 4.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 22, 2019

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