Breast cancer doesn’t affect only one gender. The cases may be few and far between, but male breast cancer does happen. So, how common is breast cancer in men? It’s rare, accounting for 1% of all cancers in males.
Understanding male breast cancer and its challenges
Breast cancer in men and women is the same, since both genders have breast tissue. While the incidence is significantly lower, the challenges and stigma surrounding male breast cancer persist. One of them is that it is often diagnosed later in life, when men are in their 60s or older.
Another is the emotional and psychological impact. Sharing the diagnosis with family and friends can be embarrassing, since it’s frequently considered a woman’s disease. That can make the person feel isolated and stigmatised. Coupled with the emotions the news brings—fear, shock, and anxiety—the disease can get incredibly lonely.
Lack of awareness
The biggest challenge for men facing breast cancer is a lack of awareness. Due to the predominance of breast cancer in women, many men and even some healthcare professionals may not consider breast cancer a possibility when symptoms arise.
Many men tend to ignore or dismiss early breast cancer symptoms, such as a lump. Approximately 40% of all male breast cancer is found to be stage III or IV. This delay makes treatment more challenging.
Misdiagnosis of Male Breast Lump
Breaking the stigma around breast cancer in men
The simplest way to eliminate the misconception that breast cancer is solely a women’s issue is to educate yourself about the disease.
What causes breast cancer in men?
The exact causes of male breast cancer are unknown. Still, certain risk factors increase the likelihood of a man getting it.
- Exposure to radiation
- Hormones: High oestrogen levels
- Lifestyle: overweight, drinking, and sedentary life
- Age: It occurs more commonly in men aged 50 years and older.
- Family history: If anyone on either side of your family, male or female, has breast cancer or ovarian cancer
- Genetic disorders: Klinefelter syndrome, where men are born with an extra X chromosome, increases risk because of excess oestrogen. The presence of BRCA mutations is also a risk factor.
What are the male breast cancer symptoms?
Symptoms of male breast cancer in the early stages are contained in the breast. Moreover, the most common breast cancer in men, about 90%, is invasive ductal carcinoma, and the typical sign of this cancer is a painless lump near the nipple.
Some other symptoms of breast cancer in men you should recognise are:
- A discharge from the nipple
- Swelling or dimpling in the breasts
- Change in the shape or appearance of the nipple, breast, or pectorals
- The glands under the arm (lymph nodes) are swollen or painful.
How is breast cancer in men diagnosed?
There are three tests done to diagnose male cancer:
- A mammogram that x-rays the breast
- An ultrasound that takes a painless picture of the breast.
- A fine needle aspiration or biopsy is where a small piece of tissue is taken from the breast and examined by a specialist for tumorous growth.
Male breast cancer is not a death sentence
In a world where breast cancer in men remains a rare and often overlooked concern, its obscurity frequently translates into dire outcomes. The stigma surrounding it casts a shadow on those who are affected.
Catching it early is the trick to beating the condition. And the key is knowledge, which paves the way to timely diagnosis and the life-saving care everyone deserves.
This October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, pledge to educate yourselves and the men in your lives. By doing so, you dismantle the barriers that stand in the way of early detection and the fight against male breast cancer.