Male Breast Cancer

  • Overview

  • Symptoms

  • Diagnosis

  • Treatment

Overview

Since breast cancer is less common in men, many of them do not realise they can be afflicted with the disease. Hence a lump in a man’s breast is usually diagnosed as cancer at later stages and older ages than in women. As with women male breast cancer also first spreads to the lymph nodes under the arm.

Risk Factors:

  • Age: Most patients are in their late 60s and 70s
  • Hormonal Imbalance: Increase in the hormone estrogen
  • Radiation: People who have undergone radiation therapy
  • Family History: 20% of men with breast cancer have a parent, sibling, son or daughter with the disease.

Early Symptoms

Like in women, the most common breast cancer symptom in men is a lump in the chest, which is painless in most cases. Other symptoms may be:

  • Flattening of the nipple
  • A nipple grows inward
  • Fluid discharge from a nipple
  • Redness or scaling of the skin of the breast or a nipple

Diagnosis

  • Family History
  • Physical Examination
  • Imaging Tests: Like mammogram or ultrasound
  • Biopsy: Using any of the biopsy methods depending on the patient’s situation

Treatment

Surgery: About 98% of men with breast cancer undergo a mastectomy where the entire breast is removed but the wall muscles of the chest are saved. Lumpectomy is the usual breast-conserving procedure, in which only the cancerous tissue and a layer of surrounding tissues are extracted. During primary surgery, a biopsy is performed on the sentinel lymph node under the arm. If the cancer has spread to it, the other lymph nodes are also taken out.

Systemic Therapies: The cancer can also be targeted through various drugs given orally or injected into the blood. They can reach the abnormal cells anywhere in the body where the cancer has metastasised. These are chemotherapy, targeted agents and hormonal therapy.

Radiation Therapy: This may be given after surgery to kill any cancer cells left over in the breast, chest wall or in the underarm region. If the patient also undergoes chemotherapy, radiation is given after its completion.