Men and Breast Cancer Advice

Written by Rita Kennen

Nearly 1200 men a year will be diagnosed with breast cancer.Are you or someone you love at risk?

Most men who detect a lump in their breast are too embarrassed to consult a doctor, researchers say. Many men feel that revealing any breast cancer warning sign to their doctor or family reflects negatively on their masculinity. However, although the percentage of men diagnosed with breast cancer is rare, about 30 to 40 percent die from the disease, mostly from a lack of early detection.

Cancer specialist Dr. Patrick Borgen believes half the battle lies in increasing public awareness of male breast cancer. According to Borgen, when a male patient goes to his doctor with a lump, many physicians overlook breast cancer as a possible diagnosis. Breast cancer risk in men increases with age and often strikes at age 67, a slightly later time than when women encounter the disease.

Having a mammogram is the next step in analyzing a suspected malignancy. However, even though the male breast is very similar to the female breast, male mammograms can be difficult because there is sometimes, especially for a thin man, not enough breast tissue. That's important since the procedure involves squeezing breast tissue between two X-ray plates. Because of that problem, doctors may also rely on techniques like ultrasound and needle biopsies as methods of obtaining an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment Options

Male treatment options follow along the same lines as for women. The preferred treatment is modified radical mastectomy (removing only the breast and adjacent lymph nodes). Radiation therapy is also used in treating tumors close to the chest wall. Drugs used in chemotherapy are identical to female cancer drugs and are used in treating large tumors and positive lymph nodes.

Male Breast Cancer Risk Factors

The victim in one out of every 100 cases of breast cancer in the United States today is male. The diagnosis of breast cancer in men is linked to these possible risk factors:

  • Jewish or African American descent
  • Carrying the BRCA2 gene, which is identified as one of the genes greatly increasing your risk for breast cancer 
  • Klinefelter's syndrome, a condition in men that results in a hormonal imbalance due to a variation in the sex chromosomes 
  • A family history of breast cancer 
  • Smoking 
  • Low testosterone level 
  • Conditions resulting in increased estrogen levels
  • Occupations with high environmental exposure to heat such as steel mills 
  • Prolonged exposure to radiation 
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