Breast Cancer in Men – Symptoms & Causes
Although rare, breast cancer does occur in men. Often it goes undetected because breast cancer is a disease that is most often thought to affect only women.
It can occur at any age, but male breast cancer is more common in older men.
It is important to understand and recognize the symptoms, because, like breast cancer in women, if diagnosed at an early stage, men have a better chance of recovery. If a positive diagnosis is confirmed, treatment would usually consist of surgical removal of the cancerous cells from the breast with possible follow up chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
First, we will review symptoms related breast cancer in men so you can recognize them as early warning signs. Then we will go on to talk about the possible causes and risk factors involved with men who develop breast cancer.
If you develop any of the symptoms below and they are persistent, that would be a good time to see Your Doctor.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men Can Include:
- A liquid discharge from your nipple. If this happens, seek immediate medical attention.
- Painless lumps in breast
- Thickening of the breast tissue
- Visible change to the nipple, such as redness or scaling, or if the nipple begins to turn inward.
- Changes to the skin covering your breast, such as puckering, dimpling, redness or scaling
These are symptoms that can often indicate the presence of cancerous cells in the breast. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important not to ignore them and to seek proper medical attention.
Causes of Breast Cancer in Men
Doctors are not sure what causes breast cancer to occur in men. They do however know that it happens when damaged or unhealthy cells developed and reproduce more rapidly than healthy cells. The result is that the build-up of unhealthy cells forms a tumor that can spread to and infect nearby tissues. It can also spread to the lymph nodes, or to other body parts.
Where Breast Cancer Occurs
Every person is born with a small amount of breast tissue. This tissue is comprised of milk-producing glands, ducts that carry milk to the nipples, and fat cells. When women enter puberty, they start to develop more breast tissue, whereas men do not. This does not exempt men however from breast cancer, because they were still born with a small amount of breast tissue, that tissue can still become cancerous.
There are three types of cancer diagnosed in men. They include, cancer that begins in the milk ducts, cancer that begins in the milk producing glands, and other rarer types.
- Cancer That Begins in The Milk-producing Glands (lobular carcinoma): This type is rare in men because they have fewer lobules in their breast tissue than women.
- Cancer That Begins in The Milk Ducts (ductal carcinoma): Nearly all male breast cancer is this type
- Other types are rare and do not include Paget’s disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer.
There are a number of risk factors involved with cancer of all types. With men concerned about breast cancer, these are some factors you should look at. Generally, the appearance of too much estrogen seems to be a common theme among risks.
- Family History: If you have a strong family history of cancer, discuss this with your doctor. Some men inherit abnormal (mutated) genes from their parents that increase the risk of breast cancer. Mutations in one of several genes, especially a gene called BRCA2, put you at greater risk of developing breast and prostate cancers. Your doctor may recommend that you meet with a genetic counselor in order to consider genetic testing to see if you carry genes that increase your risk of cancer.
- Klinefelter’s syndrome. This genetic syndrome occurs when boys are born with more than one copy of the X chromosome. Klinefelter’s syndrome causes abnormal development of the testicles. As a result, men with this syndrome produce lower levels of certain male hormones (androgens) and more female hormones (estrogens)
- Older age: The risk of developing breast cancer increases as you age. Most cases of breast cancer are from men in their 60’s or older.
- Exposure to estrogen: If you are taking estrogen related drugs, such as those used for prostate cancer or hormone therapy, then you are at greater risk of developing breast cancer.
- Liver disease: Conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, can reduce male hormones and increase female hormones. This heightens your risk of developing breast cancer
- Excessive Alcohol consumption. Maybe spirits and alcoholic beverages such as beer reduce testosterone production in males. Alcohol has adverse effects on the liver, which can affect the level of estrogen in the body. Excessive alcohol use can lead to cirrhosis.
- Obesity. By being overweight you’ll have higher levels of estrogen in the body. Higher levels of estrogen have been linked to breast cancer development in men.
- Testicle disease or surgery. Having inflamed testicles (orchitis) or surgery to remove a testicle (orchiectomy) can increase your risk of male breast cancer.
Male breast cancer is rare but can occur. If you feel you are at risk, or display any if the symptoms mentioned above, it is important that contact a medical professional. As with all forms of cancer, early detection is the best way to ensure a full recovery.