Why do Men develop Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer in males is extremely rare. Lesser than 1% of all breast cancers are found in men. However, it is a possibility. This is because men do have breast tissues, just like women. It’s just that several hormones present in women tend to stimulate them into full grown breasts. Due to a lack of such hormones in men, they don’t develop breasts, not unless they have ab-normal hormone levels. However, the presence of breast tissues makes Breast Cancer in men a possibility, however remote that possibility may be.

Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer:

• A lump in the breast area.
• The nipple appears to be inverted. This may happen if there’s a lump present behind the nipple.
• A nipple discharge, either clear or blood-stained.
• The nipple or the areole surrounding it become sore.
• Presence of small lumps in the axillary lymph nodes.

Causes of Male Breast Cancer

While the exact cause for male breast cells turning cancerous is hard to point, there are a couple of risk factors involved.
Age: Just like in the case of Women, chances of being diagnosed with Breast Cancer in-creases as you age. It is highly rare for a man under 35 to be diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The average age is 68.
High Oestrogen Levels: Men with high oestrogen levels may experience breast cell growth, which can be either normal or abnormal.
Obesity: Being overweight increases the production of Oestrogen.
Hormonal Medication taken to increase oestrogen.
Alcohol: Heavy use of alcohol can prevent liver from being able to regulate oestrogen levels.
Liver disease: This may lead to a fall in androgens (male hormone) level, and a rise in oestrogen.
• A history of being exposed to radiations.
• A family history of Breast Cancer on other women or men. If the abnormal genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have been inherited then Breast Cancer is a strong possibility.
Klinefelter syndrome: This is a condition that 1 in 1000 men are afflicted with from birth itself. As a result they have lower androgen and higher oestrogen levels which may lead to them having a higher voice, longer legs, smaller testicles, inability to produce sperms, etc. This occurs as an imbalance in the chromosomes. Men generally have one X and one Y chromosome each, but men with the Klinefelter syndrome may have as many as 4 X chromosomes. This may lead to gynecomastia, which is the non-cancerous growth of breast cells, or they may even lead to Breast Cancer.

How is male Breast Cancer diagnosed?

After a tumour or lump is detected, one of the following tests is generally run for the diagnosis:
Mammogram: This is similar to an X-Ray and is used to identify changes in the breast tissue that may signify breast cancer. The procedure involves a Radiographer compressing one of the patients’ breasts between the X-Ray plates in order to produce a clear image of the insides of the breast.
Ultrasound: This procedure is similar to that used to view a baby in a womb, involving the production of high-frequency sound waves to view an image of the insides of the breast. A probe is placed and run across the surface of the breast in order to highlight any lumps or abnormalities.
Biopsy: This procedure follows after a lump has been detected in any of the previously mentioned procedures. In this procedure a local anaesthetic is used to numb the part of the breast with the suspected cells. A small tissue sample of the lump is extracted and examined to determine whether it is cancerous and how far if it is cancer has it spread. If Cancer is detected, the cells are examined for the presence of proteins known as oestrogen receptors on the surface. If they are found then Hormone therapy is recommended.
Staging: This procedure follows once Cancer has been diagnosed, and its purpose is to determine the Stage to which the Cancer has spread. A complete cure is often possible during an early stage, however if it’s detected at a latter stage (as it is for most Men), then the progression of Cancer can only be slowed down.

How is male Breast Cancer treated?

Most of what Doctors know about the treatment for Breast Cancer in men comes directly from their experience with breast cancer in women. This is because breast cancer in Men is quite rare and thus it is hard to run clinical trials for them. Treatment for Breast Cancer in men can be classified into several groups.

The following are the primary treatments available for Breast Cancer:
• Surgery
• Radiation Therapy
• Chemotherapy
• Hormone Therapy
• Targeted Therapy
• Bone-directed Therapy

These treatments can also be divided based on which part of the body they target.
Local Therapy: This is directed at only the part of the body where the tumour is found and doesn’t affect the rest of the body. However, this usually works for the earlier stages when the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. This involves Surgery and Radiation Therapy.
Systemic Therapy: This involves cancer-killing drugs administered to the bloodstream or into the mouth. This can find cancerous cells anywhere in the body and kill them. This affects the whole body of the patient. This involves Chemotherapy and Hormone Therapy.

Treatments can also be classified based on when they are used.
Adjuvant Therapy: This generally refers to Systemic Therapy that is administered after the Surgery. This is done so as to detect and kill any cancer cells which might have gone undetected, and ensure that the Cancer doesn’t return in some other part of the body.
Neoadjuvant Therapy: This refers to treatment before the surgery in order to reduce the size of the tumour, thus negating the need for an extensive operation.

Outlook/ Prognosis

The survival rate or prognosis for Men isn’t as hopeful as it is for women, and men suffering from Breast Cancer have a 25% higher mortality rate than women. This is also due to the fact that men generally get diagnosed with Breast Cancer at a much later stage because it is so rare in Men.