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Male Breast Cancer: Know Signs And Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment And More

Breast cancer is commonly believed to be a "woman's" disease, leading to late diagnosis and limited support for men.

Male Breast Cancer: Know Signs And Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment And More

Breast cancer can affect both men and women

Breast cancer is often seen as a woman's health concern, but it is important to note that it also affects men. It is true that male breast cancer is rare, but it exists, and addressing the taboo about this health condition in men is critical for raising awareness about earlier detection and timely treatment.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,800 men will get breast cancer in 2023, and fewer than 530 men will die due to breast cancer. The same year will witness the diagnosis of about 297,790 cases of breast cancer in females, leading to some 43,170 deaths.

It is among the rarest conditions in men, contributing less than 1 percent of all breast cancer cases. Although breast cancer is less frequent in men compared to women, it happens to one in every 833 men. This condition poses unique problems for men with breast cancer.

Breaking the taboo on male breast cancer:

Breast cancer is commonly believed to be a "woman's" disease, leading to late diagnosis and limited support for men. However, male breast cancer is a subject that society hardly acknowledges. In fact, many men are uncomfortable speaking about this condition.

Men can develop breast cancer in the non-functional milk ducts, glands, and other breast tissues. They can experience the same types of breast cancer as women, with infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC) being the most common. However, cancers involving the parts that make and store milk are rare. The lack of breast tissue in men makes it difficult to detect early lumps, which contributes to delayed diagnosis.

Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer:

Male breast cancer may present itself with various signs and symptoms. These can include a painless swelling in the breast, restricted movement of the skin covering the breast, as well as redness, scaling, and even an inverted nipple. Nipple discharge can also be an indicator of this condition. It's important for men to be aware of these signs and seek medical attention if they occur to ensure early detection and appropriate care.

Risk factors for breast cancer in men:

Risk factors for male breast cancer include age (risk increases with age), genetic mutations (e.g., BRCA1 and BRCA2), family history of breast cancer, past radiation or hormone therapy, Klinefelter syndrome, testicle-related conditions, liver disease, and being overweight or obese.

Treatment for men with breast cancer:

1. Surgery: Surgery is a common and effective treatment option for cancer that involves removing the cancerous tissue from the body. The type of surgery used depends on the location and stage of the cancer, as well as the patient's overall health.

2. Chemotherapy: To destroy the cancer cell, the patient receives oral or intravenous medication during chemotherapy. This treatment is often combined with other forms of cancer care, such as radiation or surgery.

3. Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy involves taking medications that either reduce the amount of hormones in the body or block the hormones from reaching cancer cells. This can slow the growth of the cancer or cause it to shrink.

4. Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy can be used to treat cancer that is localized to a specific area of the body or to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Radiation therapy can be given along or by combing can be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy.

5. Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that targets specific genes or proteins that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. These drugs are designed to be more precise than traditional chemotherapy, which kills both cancer and healthy cells.

Male breast cancer is a lesser-known but concerning condition that requires more attention. It is important to break this taboo to make men with breast cancer understand that they are not alone, so that their case may be diagnosed and treated in time.

(Dr. Shubham Jain, HOD And Consultant - Surgical Oncology, Manipal Hospitals Delhi, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka)

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