Moobs are no laughing matter and male breast cancer isn't either
In honor of breast cancer awareness month, I thought that I would discuss a growing trend in healthcare: Male breast cancer. I wanted to raise awareness because many people do not know that males can even get breast cancer, and men don't worry about it, so they usually notice lumps late, leading to late diagnosis, and worse outcomes. Male breast cancer can occur at any age, and stage for stage of breast cancer, has the same outcomes as women, men just tend to delay diagnosis, whereas women (for the most part) are hyper vigilant about SBE's (self breast exams). We are all born with small amounts of breast tissue, women's grow during puberty, whereas this doesn't occur in men, but they do have that small amount of breast tissue from birth.
What are symptoms to look for?
-Painless lump or thickening of the breast tissue
- Changes to the skin on/around your breast tissue such as dimpling, puckering, redness, or scaling
- Changes to your nipple that appears red, scaling, or your nipple turns inward
-Discharge from your nipple/s
What are they types of male breast cancer?
Cancer starting in the milk ducts: ductal carcinoma is the most common male breast cancer and nearly all breast cancers involve the milk ducts.
Cancer that begins in the milk producing glands: lobular cancer is rare in men because men have low lobules on their tissue.
Cancer that spreads to the nipple: In some cases breast cancer can spread from the ducts to the nipple causing scaliness and redness o the nipple, known as Paget's disease.
What are the risks?
Inherited genes/Family history: BRCA2 can be tested early (if you have a strong family history, you can talk to your doctor about getting genetic testing).
Older age: men 60-70 are at increased risk
Alcohol: excessive alcohol intake over time can increase your risk.
Estrogen: If you take estrogen or hormones for a sex change purposes or as used in prostate cancer treatment.
Klinefelter's Syndrome: sometimes males are born with an extra X chromosome, which can cause abnormal testicle development and leads to lower testosterone levels and higher estrogen levels.
Liver Disease: cirrhosis of the liver can cause higher levels of circulating estrogen, as the liver converts androgens to estrogen.
Obesity: higher fat cell content, and fat cells also convert androgens to estrogen.
Radiation Exposure: for treatment of cancers in the chest, for example.
What to expect during your work-up:
Clinical breast exam: your HCP will manually feel your breast tissue on the chest
Mammogram: the tissue of your breast is pressed flat and an Xray is then taken as you are standing upright (it is relatively uncomfortable and tell the technician if you need a break)
Breast Ultrasound: a non invasive test with some goo placed on top of your skin, and a wand that uses sound waves to "see" breast tissue is used.
Test nipple discharge: if you have discharge, your HCP may collect a sample to test for cancer cells
Biopsy: a small needle is inserted into the lump and cells are removed to test for cancer and visually screen under microscope, it can determine if there is cancer and what type.
Surgery: to remove the affected tissues
Radiation: High energy beams to kill off the cancer cells through the skin
Hormone therapy: Some cancers needs hormones to grow, and the treatment is to give the opposite hormone, therefore stopping its growth and killing the cancer.
Chemotherapy: Using strong chemicals through the veins to kill off certain types of cells, at different stages of growth.
Are there Alternative therapies?
None have been shown through research to cure male breast cancer, but they can help relax you during your treatment, and make it much more tolerable. Acupuncture, prayer, yoga, meditation can all help to restore your personal balance while undergoing treatments.
Can I prevent it?
Drink alcohol in moderation, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and perform self breast exams to notice any new lumps/bumps/skin changes. Also, if you have a family history (like mom, aunts, sisters) with breast cancer, talk to your HCP about possible genetic testing. Being aware of the signs is the first step, and talking to your partner and HCP about any changes is super important too....hey, who better to give your breast exam than your partner ;)
Yours in Good Health