Male breast cancer rare, but men should learn risk factors, signs and symptoms

Although rare, men get breast cancer too.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, in 2020, an estimated 2,620 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S. and approximately 520 will die.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that the 5-year survival rate for men with breast cancer is 84%, with individual survival rates dependent upon various factors, including the stage of the disease when it is first diagnosed. If the cancer is located only in the breast, the 5-year survival rate of men with breast cancer increases to 96%. About 47% of cases are diagnosed at this localized stage. If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 83%.

Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. The mortality rate is higher in men than women because awareness among men is sadly lacking. Men are generally less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which may keep them from seeking medical advice. Any delay in seeking treatment can diminish the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Most men diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50.

Here are some important facts about male breast cancer from the American Cancer Society:

• Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among white men than among white women; and about 70 times less common among Black men than Black women

• As with Black women, Black men with breast cancer tend to have a worse prognosis

• For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833

• Breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast

• The most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, and invasive lobular carcinoma

• Breast cancer can spread when the cancer cells get into the blood or lymph system and are carried to other parts of the body

Risk factors for breast cancer in men include the following:

• Age — The risk of male breast cancer increases as a man ages. The average age of men diagnosed with breast cancer is 72.

• Genetics — Men with a mutation in the BRCA2 gene have an increased risk of breast cancer.

• Klinefelter syndrome — This is a congenital condition that affects approximately 1 in 1,000 men. Men with Klinefelter syndrome are more likely to get breast cancer than other men.

• Radiation exposure — Any man whose chest has been treated with radiation is at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

• Alcohol — Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages increases the risk of breast cancer in men.

• Liver disease — Men with severe liver disease, such as cirrhosis, run an elevated risk of developing benign male breast growth.

• Obesity — Studies have shown that obesity is a factor for male breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society encourages men who are or may be at a high risk for male breast cancer to discuss how to manage that risk with their doctor. The American Society of Clinical Oncology goes one step further and urges men to become familiar with the feel of their breast and chest wall tissue, so they can talk with their doctor if they notice any lump or change.

Following is a list of possible symptoms of breast cancer:

• A lump or swelling, which is often (but not always) painless

• Skin dimpling or puckering

• Nipple retraction (turning inward)

• Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin

• Discharge from the nipple

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