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Breast Cancer in Men – Warning Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

While breast cancer is common and occurs mainly in women, men can get it too. Visit your doctor and get a FNAC Test done to find out. It is important to realise that men have breast tissue and they can develop breast cancer. Body cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancerous and can spread to other areas. Male breast cancer is however most common in older men, though it can occur at any age.

What causes breast cancer in men?

Experts do not yet know exactly why cancer develops in the breast, but a number of risk factors have been identified. Genetic, environmental and medical factors can all contribute to this.

  • Genetic mutations increase the risk of breast cancer. Scientists have found links between breast cancer and a mutation in genes. There is often a family history of breast cancer in people with these changes. Studies show that around 20% of men with breast cancer have a close family member with the condition. However, genetic features are not the only reason leading to cancer.
  • Environmental factors may increase the risk of breast cancer in men. For example, if a man has been exposed to radiation previously, to the chest area may have a higher risk of having breast cancer. Alcohol too has a link with male breast cancer. Other environmental factors that increase the risk of breast cancer in men include having a low level of physical activity, even people who are exposed to organic solvents or works with steel and rolling mills.
  • Other health conditions may cause breast cancer in men, such as, males with Klinefelter syndrome, are 20-60 times at a higher risk of breast cancer. A man may have a higher risk if he has or has had liver diseases, an undescended testicle, mumps during adulthood, gynecomasty, or excessive development. General health conditions like diabetes, thyroid conditions, obesity can also play a role in this. These conditions and certain medical treatments that involve estrogen appear to increase the risk. Men who undergo surgery to remove either or both testicles are also at a higher risk.

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men

Symptoms of breast cancer in men are quite similar to those in women. Most male breast cancers are diagnosed when a man finds a lump on his chest which is usually painless. There may be warning signs like nipple retraction, ulceration and discharge, skin puckering or dimpling on the breast, redness or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple. The more severe symptoms, like bleeding from the nipple can be noticed, swelling in the lymph glands, in or near the underarm area, breast pain and bone pain means that the cancer may have spread.

Breast cancer in men statistics

According to the American Cancer Society, the chances of surviving 5 years or more after diagnosis are, on average reduces if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. There are 96% chances of survival if cancer affects only the breast tissues at diagnosis, which is why it is essential to seek help as soon as people notice changes. It must be remembered that early stage breast cancer responds well to treatment.

Diagnostic methods and treatments have improved in the last few years, so the chances of survival after diagnosis are probably higher for people currently receiving a diagnosis.

Male breast cancer constitutes of 0.5-1% of all patients diagnosed with breast cancer. The answer to how common is breast cancer in men is still considered to be rare, but it can happen to men and the warning signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men should never be ignored.

Breast cancer in men treatment

The major problem related to breast cancer in men is that they are often diagnosed later as compared to the diagnosis of breast cancer in women. This may be because men are less likely to be suspicious of something strange in that area.

A diagnosis at an early stage always means a good chance for cure. Breast cancer treatment typically involves a surgery to remove the breast tissue. Other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may be recommended based on your particular situation.

If a person notices changes in their breast, they should immediately consult a doctor . You may be asked about your family history related to your condition and a physical examination will be carried out. You may be suggested to do the following tests

  • Mammogram
  • Ultrasound Test
  • Nipple discharge test
  • Biopsy Test

In some cases a doctor will recommend removing a lump along with carrying out a biopsy. They may only remove the affected part and carry out another test, or they may remove the entire area, including some of the normal and unaffected breast tissues surrounding it.

If results show that cancer is present, there are several treatment options are available depending on how big the tumor is and whether cancer has spread to other areas.

  • Surgery includes Mastectomy, in case of which the surgeon removes the whole breast and some of the surrounding tissue. In breast-conserving surgery, only part of the breast is removed. The surgeon removes the affected lymph nodes if it is a Lymphectomy.
  • Some people require radiation therapy after surgery to remove any remaining traces of cancer. It is also a treatment option in the later stages of the disease.
  • In some cancers, estrogen receptors are present on the walls of the cancerous cells and estrogen helps the cells to divide and grow. Estrogen hormone therapy is carried out to block the effects of estrogen and slow the growth of cancer.
  • There are certain drugs like Tamoxifen, preventing estrogen from entering the cancerous cells.
  • Aromatase inhibitors are known to block the effects of the aromatase protein which helps in reducing estrogen levels in the body. These drugs have proven effective in treating breast cancer in women and doctors prescribe the same to treat male breast cancer.
  • Fulvestrant (Faslodex) destroys estrogen receptors. Doctors prescribe it for people with late stage of breast cancer.

Depending on the type, hormone treatment can actually have adverse effects, such as hot flashes, fatigue, a higher risk of blood clots, bone thinning and pain in the muscles and joints.

  • Chemotherapy is one of the most common and recommended treatment. It uses a drug that kills the cancer cells. A doctor often gives it as an injection, or sometimes a person can take it by mouth. Chemotherapy can also prevent cancer from returning if a person uses it after surgery, or used during late stage cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. The adverse effects include hair loss, mouth sores, nausea and vomiting, changes in appetite, a higher risk of infection and these slowly disappear after the treatment finishes.


If there is a history of male breast cancer in the family, it only makes sense to regularly check for changes and see a doctor. The FNAC Test can be booked through MediBuddy to investigate lumps or masses. An individual may also consider asking for a genetic testing. Leading a healthy lifestyle, regular exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption as well as avoiding smoking may help prevent male breast cancer.

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