Do males have breast cancer ?

Do males have breast cancer ?

Yes, males can also have breast cancer. The incidence is far less than females. So overall it is very rare. Less than 1% of all breast cancer cases occur in men.

Symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to female breast cancer. Common symptoms could be-presence of a lump, one breast larger than the other, discharge from the nipple which might or might not be blood-tinged. There could be the presence of lumps in the axilla or armpits also.

There is less information on the risk factors predisposing to male breast cancer. One reason could be a hormonal imbalance. Like female breast cancer, chance of cancer increases with age. Other risk factors are drinking alcohol, exposure to chest wall radiation. If there is a history of testicular problems like undeveloped testis, undescended testis, surgery to remove testis for any reason, then they can also cause hormonal imbalances in body predisposing for breast cancer. Few other risk factors are presence of chronic liver disease and exogenous estrogen administration. Liver metabolizes hormone called estrogen. If the liver has the disease then the metabolism of these hormones is affected drastically causing higher levels of estrogen. Estrogen stimulates breast tissue which over a period of time can cause breast cancer. Similarly, history of intake of exogenous estrogen can also cause this problem. Some genetic factors cause higher chance of breast cancer in males. If there is history of many female or male family members affected with breast cancers or females patients with ovarian cancer, there is possibility of genetic factors causing cancers-e.g. BRCA syndromes. There is a very rare chromosomal disorder known as- Klinefelter syndrome. These males have approx 30 times higher risk of breast cancer than rest of the population.

Once you suspect the presence of lump or any other feature suggesting cancer you should visit doctor. He or she will do detailed examination. Then certain investigations will be ordered. These include mammograms or ultrasounds to image breasts. This will be followed by sampling from the lesion. This is called as biopsy. Once diagnosis and type of breast cancer are confirmed, patients are investigated further to see for the extent of lesion and spread to other parts of the body. PET-CT/ CECT is usually used for this purpose.

Once complete information on the extent of disease is obtained then treatment plan is decided. Management is same as for female breast cancer. If cancer is limited to breast then surgery is performed to remove the lump. Certain features will guide us to decide if patient requires chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or hormonal therapy after the removal of cancer.

However, if the disease has spread outside breast e.g. liver, lungs then patients are treated with systemic therapy (chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy). Removal of breast lump alone by surgery won’t help in these patients much, as it will not offer cure to the patient.

Once treatment is complete, follow-up visits are scheduled once in 3-6 months to detect cancer recurrences.

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