What men should report and what puts them at risk.
When men do think about breast cancer, it’s usually their wives, daughters or mothers that come to mind. Breast cancer is simply seen as a woman’s disease — and some men don’t even realize that this form of cancer can happen to them.
But although it is relatively rare, breast cancer is still a potential risk for men.This article covers the symptoms of this disease the men should be reporting to their doctor — as well as the factors that make it more likely that they will develop this disease.
A Look at the Stats
To be honest, there is a good reason why men don’t tend to worry much about this disease. According to statistics from Breast Cancer.org, male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all reported cases and a man’s lifetime chance is 1 in 1000 (assuming he is not in a high risk group). But rare is not the same thing as impossible. The organization predicts that in 2016, 2,600 men will receive this diagnosis.
Because it is relatively uncommon, however, breast cancer screening is not routinely done on male patients. This is why is it extra important for men to be aware of — and report — symptoms to their doctor.
Symptoms to Report
One thing that does put men at greater risk when it comes to breast cancer is the fact that they tend to ignore the signs and symptoms of this disease. BreastCancer.org notes one study found that, on average, a man is not diagnosed with breast cancer until 19 months after the appearance of the first signs and symptoms.
MedicineNet notes that the most common symptom of male breast cancer is a lump beneath the nipple. However, this is not the only thing that men should watch out for. Symptoms like the dimpling, inversion or retraction of the nipple, problems like discharge from or redness or scaling of the nipple. Reporting these signs and symptoms to the doctor is important if the disease is to be detected early. Healthline reports that the earlier the cancer is staged, the higher the 5-year survival rate. For example, this rate is over 90% for Stage 2 versus only 22% for Stage 4.
What Puts Men at Risk?
It is also important for men to understand what the risk factors are for male breast cancer — and to discuss these with their doctor if they feel they are at a higher risk. Breast Cancer.org notes that some of the most common risk factors include:
- Men, like women, increase their risk of breast cancer as they age. The average age for diagnosis is 61.
- High estrogen levels. These can be caused by medications, being overweight, or other medical conditions like liver disease.
- Klinefelter syndrome. This is a rare chromosomal disorder where a man is born with multiple X chromosomes instead of just one. This can lead to lower levels of male hormones and higher levels of female hormones.
- Family history of breast cancer. This is not a well-known fact, but men can inherit the genes for breast cancer — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — just like women can. If there is a strong history of breast cancer in the family, these genes could well be the reason.
- Exposure to radiation. A man who has undergone radiation therapy to the chest, especially during his teenage years, is at higher risk.
If a man is at greater risk for breast cancer, they should discuss this with their doctors and talk about possible screening. This conversation is important because, again, routine screening is not often done.
Granted, the risk for breast cancer for a man is far less than it is for women. However, it is still something that men should keep on their radar. The best ways to do this are to know what signs and symptoms to report to their doctor and what risk factors will make it more likely that they develop this disease.