Breast cancer is a dreadful disease which is most common among women and affects one in eight women. But what men may not know is that it can also occur in them! Many cells in the human body undergo cell division, and this normally occurs in a controlled manner to maintain healthy tissues. Breast cancer occurs when some cells in the breast tissue divide uncontrollably and create an abnormal lump of cells. Breast cancer is the second most common cause of death due to malignancy in women.
"Male breast cancer is more common disease than we actually think and it is more dangerous in men than women. In males it catches the chest wall early so even a small nodule in males should be immediately investigated. However, the treatment for both men and women is similar," shares Dr Sameer Kaul, senior consultant, oncology surgical Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
"Cause is not completely understood, but some men seem to be at higher than average risk of developing the disease. The cause in females can be genetic predisposition and in males it can be hormonal dependence," says Dr AK Anand, radiation oncologist, Max Healthcare.
This rare cancer most often occurs in men over the age of 60. It is more common in men who have:
o Several close members of their family (male or female) who have had breast cancer, or
o A close relative diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts, or
o A relative diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40. Dr Puneet Gupta, a senior oncologist in Max Healthcare shares. "It is estimated that at least 35% of all cancers have a nutritional connection. Even common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet. With lifestyle factors such as smoking, the risk only enhances."
"Like breast cancer in women, treatment depends upon the stage of the cancer and the overall physical condition of the patient," says Dr Vedant Kabra, surgical oncologist, Max Healthcare, Saket.
Most men diagnosed with breast cancer are initially treated by surgery. A modified radical mastectomy (removal of the breast, lining over the chest muscles, and portions of the auxiliary lymph nodes) is the most common surgical treatment of male breast cancer. Sometimes portions of the muscles of the chest wall are also removed. After surgery, adjuvant therapies are often prescribed. These are recommended especially if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (node-positive cancer). Adjuvant therapies include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and hormonal therapy. In cases of metastatic cancer, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or a combination of both, are generally recommended.
The sad part is that males are generally not aware of the problem that they are having since they are under the impression that breast cancer only targets women. "Since it is a rare condition, people can't even think of the consequences later on. A larger call must be taken and males must definitely be made aware of the condition."
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be a very trying and anxious time for a man. One may experience a range of emotions such as shock, disbelief or anger. These feelings are very common, although everybody responds differently and has his own way of coping.
Symptoms include a firm mass located below the nipple and skin changes around the nipple, including puckering, redness or scaling, retraction and ulceration of the nipple. Treatment depends upon staging and the health of the patient. Other symptoms are:
o Nipple discharge
o Lump, mass or swelling in the breast, nipple or chest wall
o Inversion of the nipple (the nipple has turned inward)
o Nipple or skin of the breast has a red appearance or is very dry and scaly
o Skin dimpling or puckering When a lump is found, most of the times it is a benign condition called gynecomastia. However, all lumps and abnormalities need to be examined by a physician. Nipple discharge and lump are the most common symptoms detected by a patient before diagnosis.
o Try and find out as much as you can about the condition and its treatment.
o Speak to your doctor or someone you are comfortable with about all your questions and concerns.
o Take care of yourself. During your treatment, you'll need to plan your schedule carefully. Allow yourself time to rest. And don't be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family want to help, but they may not always know what to do. Be specific about your needs.
o You may find it difficult to cope as you may feel alone and left out. Remember that there are people there who can support you, so do not be afraid to ask for help.
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