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Breast cancer is a form of cancer that occurs in your breast(s). Men can get breast cancer, but it is more common in women. Because of this, men often don’t know they have breast cancer until it is advanced.
There are several types and levels of male breast cancer. Types vary based on the location of cancer cells and what they look like. Breast cancer can begin in your lining, ducts, or lobules. It also can occur in your nipple or areola (the circular area around your nipple). This is known as Paget’s disease of the nipple.
Breast cancer can be invasive. This means it has or could spread to other areas in your body. (It can travel through your lymphatic system to other tissue, organs, or bones.) If your cancer hasn’t spread, it is pre-invasive or “in situ.” Sometimes it is called non-invasive, but this can change if the cancer is not treated.
Cancer grades and stages depend on the cancer cells’ size, makeup, and features. The higher the grade is (1–3), the more abnormal the cells are. It also indicates how slow or fast your cancer cells grow. The higher the stage is (I–IV) the more advanced your cancer is. It also indicates the chance that your cancer will spread. Your grade and stage affect your treatment and outlook.
Infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common form of male breast cancer. This starts in your breast ducts but is likely to spread to other areas.
Men should be aware of the shape, size, and feel of their breasts. This can help you detect signs of breast cancer early on. Symptoms include:
If you have breast cancer that has spread to your lymph nodes, you could find other lumps. These could be on the side of your breast, under your arm, or by your collarbone.
Cell growth occurs throughout your body. However, when cells grow and divide, they can mutate, or change. These abnormal cells can form a mass or a tumour. Tumours can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Boys and girls have similar amounts of breast tissue early on. At puberty, girls produce increased amounts of oestrogen. This female hormone causes breast tissue to grow. At the same time, boys’ oestrogen levels decrease, so little breast tissue grows.
Because men have less breast tissue, they often find cancer at a late stage. This also is due to low awareness of male breast cancer. Some men don’t check for lumps, see symptoms, or get care soon enough. Most, but not all, cases of male breast cancer include higher than normal oestrogen levels.
Early detection and treatment will lead to better outcomes. Seek medical care right away if you find a lump or notice symptoms.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and review your history. Because a breast exam is not part of a regular physical for men, your doctor needs to know what symptoms you are having to know to perform one. If they think you might have breast cancer, they will order more tests.
If any tests show a mass or lump, you likely will need to have a biopsy. An exception is if the lump is a cyst, which is a fluid-filled sac. A biopsy is the only way to know if a mass is cancer or not. Your doctor will remove a sample of tissue to check. In some cases, they might need to remove the entire mass or lump. Biopsies determine the size, type, and grade of the cancer.
Cancerous cells also will be tested for certain hormones and genes. If your cells are receptive to oestrogen and/or progesterone, you are hormone-positive. This accounts for most cases of male breast cancer. Positive hormone receptors can suggest better outcomes. If your cells contain high levels of HER2, you are HER2-positive. This form of cancer cells tends to be more aggressive.
Breast cancer can spread (metastasize) by way of your lymphatic system. If your cancer is invasive, you might need more testing.
Men cannot prevent or avoid breast cancer. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) does not recommend breast cancer screening for men. However, men should talk to their doctor if they are at high risk for breast cancer. Their doctor might suggest genetic testing or a mammogram.
Factors that can increase the risk of male breast cancer include:
Male breast cancer treatment:
All factors of male breast cancer play a role in your treatment. This includes size, location, type, grade, and stage. The size of the mass doesn’t change the outlook, but it can affect treatment options. Other aspects include your age, general health, and personal lifestyle choices. Talk to your doctor in detail about the risks and side effects of each treatment.
Treatment can include one or more of the following:
Living with male breast cancer:
The process to diagnose and treat cancer can be long and frustrating. Most treatments are invasive and cause side effects. Medicine(s) help counter these, but effects can be long lasting. You likely will need to make changes to your lifestyle.
After treatment, your cancer may subside. Remission can be brief or permanent. Cancer survivors usually require ongoing care. This can include testing and treatment to monitor and manage their health.
Living with cancer is emotional. You might consider joining a support group to help cope. Your doctor also might suggest rehabilitation to help with physical and life changes.
Having a male family member with breast cancer is a trigger for genetic testing and counselling. After receiving your diagnosis, a genetic counsellor can help you determine if members of your family should be tested for mutations in the BRCA gene. Abnormalities in the BRCA gene cause forms of breast and ovarian cancer.
Questions to ask your doctor regarding male breast cancer:
DOs and DON’Ts in managing male breast cancer:
A personalised cancer screening consultation is a meeting with a qualified consultant medical doctor to explain to you what does cancer screening mean and facilitate your understanding for the genomic and diagnostic tests that are that can help you to achieve your cancer screening and prevention objectives.
Your consultant doctor will aim to answer all your questions regarding the cancer screening programmes and tests that could be beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing.
It is recommended that you book a personalised cancer screening consultation with one of our recognised consultant medical doctors if you have a strong family history of cancer or you have one or more risk factors that may increase your risk of developing a specific type of cancer.
If you are unable to attend to one of our outpatients’ clinics in London for your personalised cancer screening consultation, our consultant medical doctors can arrange to have your personalised cancer screening consultation by secure and encrypted voice conferencing or video conferencing, which can be done from the convenience of your home and using your smartphone.