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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Some Myths And Facts About Male Breast Cancer You Need To Know

Breast cancer can affect men too but there is very limited awareness about male breast cancer. Here are some myths around male breast cancer debunked.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Some Myths And Facts About Male Breast Cancer You Need To Know

Male breast cancer is often associated with genetic mutations

Male breast cancer is a relatively a rare disease, accounting for less than 1% of all breast cancer cases globally. It usually occurs when the cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. It is often diagnosed at later stage due to lack of awareness among men. Common symptoms of breast cancer are - a painless lump or nodule in breast area, changes of the skin (dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling), nipple discharge or scaling, in turned nipple.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Myths about male breast cancer 

Myth: Breast cancer does not occur in men

Fact: The incidence of male breast cancer is usually of the ratio 1:120 for men: women. But it is a fact since men have breast tissue like women, just that it is vestigial organ. It usually occurs in men with advanced stage.

The cancer is often caught at a small size due to not much breast tissue, but that is also the reason that it very quickly involves the skin or chest muscles. The involvement of skin or muscle increases the stage even for a small lump and hence, men must be aware of any nodule or lump and have it evaluated promptly.

Myth: The only reason of male breast cancer is genetic mutation

Fact: Male breast cancer is often associated with genetic mutations (BRCA1, BRCA2, PTEN, p53). But is also seen in association with older age, estrogen exposure (when given hormone therapy for prostate cancer), Klinefelter's syndrome (men born with an extra X chromosome- leading to formation of more female hormone (estrogen) and less male hormone (testosterone).

Other cases of raised estrogen reason and increased risk of breast cancer in men are - liver disease (like cirrhosis) and obesity. Testicular surgery, exposure to cancer causing radiation and chemicals, sedentary lifestyle also results in increased risk of breast cancer.

Myth: Regular mammograms for screening for breast cancers should be done in men

Fact: Mammogram has not been shown to improve the diagnosis or cure rate in men, since due to absence of much breast tissue, the lump or nodule is anyways detected early. Hence mammogram is not routinely recommended for screening in men.

Myth: Male breast cancers have a different behaviour and treatment protocol as compared to women breast cancers

Fact: Breast cancer in both males and females has same treatment protocols and behave like each other. Due to absence of breast tissue, men mostly undergo mastectomy rather than breast conserving surgery as in women. The same protocols of systemic therapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy are recommended for men as for women.

Myth: Following a healthy lifestyle, will completely eliminate the risk of breast cancer

Fact: Although following a balanced diet, reducing alcohol consumption, and regularly exercising contribute towards lowering your risk of breast cancer, it does totally prevent it. It is vital to maintain a healthy routine and lower the risk as much as possible, but there is always a chance of developing breast cancer.

Being aware of the symptoms, regular screening can help in early detection and treatment. Consult your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.

(Dr. Upasna Saxena, Consultant Radiation Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre Mumbai)

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