Breast Cancer in Men

Breast Cancer in Men 1024 538 Community Clinical Pharmacy

Breast Cancer in Men

Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment

It seems that when it comes to breast cancer, we always hear about women. The reality of it is that men have small amounts of breast tissue too.  Their breasts are similar to the breasts of a girl before she reaches puberty. And because it is still breast tissue, men can develop breast cancer too, but typically not the cancers involving the parts that make and store milk.

Breast cancer in men is usually diagnosed later than breast cancer in women. One of the reasons is that because men usually don’t think that they are at risk for breast cancer they may ignore a lump in that area. In addition to that, the small amount of breast tissue can make it more difficult to catch cancer early. Another reason is that the limited breast tissue may allow tumors to spread more rapidly to surrounding tissues.

Which Men Are More Likely to Develop Breast Cancer?

A man’s chance of developing breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers in men happen between 60 and 70 years of age. It’s rare for a man under age 35 to get a breast cancer diagnosis.
The following risk factors may raise the odds of breast cancer in a man:

  • Having a close female relative with breast cancer 
  • Having had radiation exposure to the chest area
  • Gynecomastia or enlargement of breasts which can happen because of drug or hormone treatments, infections, and poisons
  • Taking estrogen
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome (rare genetic condition)
  • Cirrhosis (severe liver disease)
  • Diseases of the testicles such as mumps orchitis, a testicular injury, or undescended testicles

Symptoms

Most male breast cancers are diagnosed when a man discovers a lump on his chest. Symptoms of breast cancer in men and women are very similar. There is, however, a big difference between men and women. Women tend to seek help when they find a lump whereas men tend to delay going to the doctor until they have more severe symptoms, like discharge and bleeding from the nipple. This makes the treatment more difficult because, at that point, cancer may have already spread.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When it comes to diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, the same techniques are used in men and women. The first step is physical exam, then mammogram, and the final step in confirming a diagnosis of breast cancer involves taking small samples of the tumor (biopsy) and examining it under a microscope.

Treatment options for breast cancer in men and women are the same: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and hormone therapy. But because about 90% of male breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive, men with breast cancer respond much better to hormone therapy than women. 

It is important for both men and women to pay attention to signs that may suggest breast cancer:

  1. Lump in your breast or underarm is often the first symptom of breast cancer. Although some cancerous lumps are usually painless, some may have a prickly sensation.
  2. Swelling in the breast, armpit, collarbone – An aggressive type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer may cause swelling in your breast. If breast cancer has spread to lymph nodes you may experience swelling in your armpit or collarbone. This swelling may come before you feel a lump, so let your doctor know if you notice it. 
  3. Pain or tenderness in your  breast – Cancerous lumps are usually painless however, pain or tenderness can be a sign of breast cancer.

4. A flat or dimpled area on your breast – This could be a tumor that you can’t see or feel.
5. Changes in breasts – A difference in the size, shape, texture, or temperature of your breast can be a sign of breast cancer.
6. Nipple changes and feelings
• Inward pull
• Dimpling
• Burning
• Itching
• Developing sore
• Nipple discharge

Whether you are a man or a woman, there is always a chance for breast cancer. Pay attention to your body. Check your breasts regularly. When in doubt, ask your healthcare provider if you need a mammogram. When getting hormone therapy, work with an expert who will check your hormone levels and pay attention to details. And feel free to contact me if you have questions on breast health and hormones. 

Sharzad Green, Pharm.D. 


Sharzad Green, Pharm. D., is a hormone replacement specialist & pharmacist at Community Clinical Pharmacy, in Mesa, Arizona. She offers private Hormone Replacement Consultations to find a tailored solution that fits your needs. Sharzad has had the privilege of working with over 12,000 patients and providers in the Valley and around the world.

When in doubt, contact one of our knowledgeable pharmacists at Community Clinical Pharmacy. We are here to offer you solutions and assist you in making informed decisions about your health.

Contact us with comments, questions, or pharmacy
related topics you’d like to know more about. And, as always, stay healthy!

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