Though not as prevalent as in females, men can get breast cancer too.
When children are born, both males and females possess similar breast tissue. Over time, however, breast growth in males slows and the breasts don’t develop at the same rate or with the same complexity as in females.
High testosterone and low estrogen levels at puberty slow and ultimately stop breast development in males, although some milk ducts continue to exist. They remain undeveloped and contain no lobules. Despite the obvious differences, breast problems can occur in men and, although quite rare, breast cancer can develop.
In the U.S., less than one percent of all breast cancers have been diagnosed in men, with the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer being about 1 in 1000. In women, however, the numbers are 1 in 8 in the U.S.
2018 estimates are that some 2,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed. Four hundred and eighty of those cases will result in death, with mortality rates that are much lower for men than for women.
Survival rates for men are on par with what they are for women with the same stage of breast cancer at the time of diagnosis. However, men are often diagnosed at a much later stage. That could be because men are less likely to report unusual symptoms and may be more reluctant to seek a doctor’s advice, which leads to delays in treatment.
How Race and Ethnicity Play Roles in Breast Cancer
Breast cancer incidence in men varies by race and ethnicity in the U.S. Black men have the highest breast cancer incidence overall, while Asian/Pacific Islander men have the lowest rate of incidence. The median age of diagnosis is around sixty-eight.
Warning Signs of Breast Cancer in Men
The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a painless lump or thickening in the breast/chest area. In fact, any change in the breast, including discharge on or around the nipple area, may be a warning sign of breast cancer.
Hard knots, lumps, or thickening in the chest or underarm are other warning signs, along with a change in the size or shape of the breast. Any dimpling, redness, or puckering of the skin could be cause for concern. Inverted nipples may be another important symptom to consult your doctor about. Some of these signs can be easier to detect in men than in women because men have much less breast tissue than women do.
Types of Breast Cancer Found in Men
Invasive ductal carcinomas: cancers that begin in the milk ducts
Invasive lobular carcinomas: cancers that begin in the lobules of the breast
Rare Breast Cancers in Men
In rare cases, men are diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (a non-invasive breast cancer), inflammatory breast cancer, or Paget’s disease of the breast or of the nipple.
There are also several benign breast conditions that can be found in men but are most common in women. They include gynecomastia, an enlargement of the breast tissue. This results from a hormone imbalance in the body.
By Dr. Carlos Soliz