Wearing pink ribbons to raise awareness, women get most of the attention during Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October. But men can get breast cancer too.
Recently, Beyoncé’s father, Mathew Knowles, revealed on Good Morning America that he is battling breast cancer and urged other men to get tested for the disease.
Speaking about the importance of breast cancer awareness, Dr K. V. Krishnamani, Consultant Medical Oncologist, CARE Hospitals, says, “Breast cancer can develop in men too. Though men do not develop milk producing breasts, the cells in the breast can still develop cancer. Less than 1 per cent breast cancers develop in men, and 1 in 1,000 men can develop breast cancer. It is usually detected as a lump below the nipple and areola. However, awareness among men about breast cancer is very less.”
Everyone is born with a small amount of breast tissue that consists of milk producing glands (lobules), ducts that carry milk to the nipples and fat. During puberty, women begin developing more breast tissue while men do not. But because men are born with a small amount of breast tissue, they can develop breast cancer. “Breast cancer first spreads to the lymph nodes in the armpit and then to other organs like lungs, liver, bone and brain,” says the oncologist.
Symptoms & causes
Symptoms include a lump in the breast, lump in the armpit, nipple discharge, bleeding from nipple, severe bone pain, seizures, recurrent headaches or weakness due to brain metastases and breathlessness and cough due to lung metastases.
l A painless lump or thickening in breast tissue.
l Changes in the skin covering the breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling.
l Changes in the nipple, such as redness or scaling, or a nipple that begins to turn inward.
l Discharge from the nipple.
l Inherited genes that increase breast cancer risk. Some men inherit abnormal (mutated) genes from their parents that increase the risk of breast cancer.
Risk factors that increase the risk of male breast cancer include:
l Older age: The risk of breast cancer increases as you age. Male breast cancer is most often diagnosed in men in their 60s.
l Exposure to estrogen: If you take estrogen-related drugs such as those used for hormone therapy for prostate cancer, your risk of breast cancer increases.
l Family history: If you have a close family member with breast cancer, you have a greater chance of developing the disease.
l Klinefelter’s syndrome: This genetic syndrome occurs when boys are born with more than one copy of the X chromosome.
l Liver disease: Certain conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver can reduce male hormones and increase female hormones, increasing your risk of breast cancer.
l Obesity: Obesity is associated with higher levels of estrogen in the body, which increases the risk of male breast cancer.
l Clinical breast exam: The doctor uses his or her fingertips to examine your breasts and surrounding areas for lumps or other changes. Your doctor assesses how large the lumps are, how they feel, and how close they are to your skin and muscles.
l Imaging tests: Imaging tests create pictures of your breast tissue that allow doctors to identify abnormal areas. Tests may include a breast X-ray (mammogram) or an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images.
l Biopsy: Removing a sample of breast cells for testing. A biopsy is the only definitive way to make a diagnosis of breast cancer. During a biopsy, your doctor uses a specialised needle device guided by X-ray or another imaging test to extract a core of tissue from the suspicious area.
Biopsy samples are then sent to a laboratory for analysis where experts determine whether the cells are cancerous. A biopsy sample is also analysed to determine the type of cells involved in the breast cancer, the aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer, and whether the cancer cells have hormone
receptors or other receptors that may influence your treatment options.