Male breast cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops in the breast tissue of men and not women. Although, breast cancer is most commonly known as a health condition that is only seen in women, but it can also grow in men. Men who get diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage have a higher chance of recovering from this disease. Make breast cancer treatment is mostly done through surgery by removing the breast tissue. Other treatment methods include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, depending on the condition, stage and type of the patient's cancer. Male breast cancer is usually seen in older men, but it can occur at any age. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Niranjan Naik, Director, Surgical Oncology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, about the types, stages, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of male breast cancer.
Male breast cancer types
Each individual has a small amount of breast tissue since birth only. Breast tissue is made up of milk-producing glands and ducts that carry milk to the nipples. During adolescence, most women start developing more breast tissue, and men do not. However, men are also born with a small amount of breast tissue, so they can also develop breast cancer. So, here are the 3 main types of male breast cancer:
1. Ductal carcinoma
In this type of cancer, it starts developing in the milk ducts. Almost all male breast cancer is ductal carcinoma only. Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of male breast cancer.
2. Lobular carcinoma
In lobular carcinoma, the cancer begins in the milk-producing glands. This type of breast cancer is rare in men because they have few lobules in their breast tissue.
3. Other types
Other rarer types of breast cancer that can develop in men include Paget's disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer.
Stages of male breast cancer
Like every other type of cancer, male breast also has four stages, in which stage 1 to 3 are curable, and stage 4 is incurable. Effective diagnosis and treatment can successfully be done in stage one. So, here are the four main stages of breast cancer in men:
Stage 1: This stage of male breast cancer in noninvasive but the other three stages are. These cancers are still very small and may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes or there might be a tiny region of cancer spreading in the lymph node. The main treatment at this stage is surgery.
Stage 2: In stage 2 of breast cancer in men, the cancers are likely to be larger than stage I cancers and may or may not have spread to a few nearby lymph nodes. Radiation therapy can be given after the surgery in this stage.
Stage 3: In stage 3, the cancers and tumors get more advanced. The cancer might get larger in size, rapidly growing and spreading onto the nearby skin and muscle. And by this stage, the cancer might have spread to many nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 4: In male breast cancer stage 4, the cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body. Breast cancer can usually spread to the bones, liver, and lungs. As the cancer gets advanced, it can even spread to the brain, but it can have an impact on any organ and tissue.
Male breast cancer symptoms
Breast cancer in men have fewer or no symptoms is early stages, but the most common symptom which is seen in most cases is that a lump is formed, it is usually painless. You should reach out to a doctor/oncologist, if you experience any of these below listed signs of male breast cancer. According to Dr. Niranjan, here are the main symptoms of breast cancer in men:
1. Painless lump
There is a painless lump in the breast and this is the most common and early sign. This lump is usually formed due to change in texture of tissues under the skin. If any kind of lumps come in notice, you should seek medical help immediately. You should try to feel and examine your breasts for any lumps every once in a while. You should be more cautious if you have a history of breast cancer in your family.
2. Changes in nipple
Change in nipple is also seen and usually inverted nipple is very common. It happens because of the growth of an underlying tissue. This inward turning of nipple is called Nipple Retraction. Redness and scaling is also observed in males suffering from breast cancer.
3. Discharge from nipple
In later stages of male breast cancer, sometimes discharge is also noticed. It is generally a translucent fluid which may be streaked with blood. Although, most nipple discharge is noncancerous, it can signify breast cancer in some people.
4. Changes in the breast skin
A sore or rash around the nipple that doesn't go away is also a common symptom. Dimpling, puckering and redness is also seen on the skin surrounding nipples. In some cases, scaling is also observed on the breast skin.
5. Lumps under arms
Another symptom of breast cancer in men is the swelling of lymph nodes that are usually present near armpits. Lymph nodes basically help us fight any kind of foreign body, they swell up when there is any infection in the body.
6. Nipple Ulceration
It is a rare symptom of breast cancer in which nipple are inflammated. There is a constant burning sensation and the wound won't heal completely. There is a prominent development of nipple ulceration.
Male breast cancer causes
There is no clear cause of male breast cancer and determining this requires a proper diagnosis. As per Dr. Niranjan, there are some direct causes and also a few triggering factors that might be the reason behind male breast cancer. They are:
1. Old age
Old age is a major risk factor of breast cancer in men. There is a higher chance of male breast cancer if you are old. The risk of this type of cancer keeps increasing with age but it can occur at any age.
Obesity is also another risk factor associated with male breast cancer. You should maintain an optimum weight as per your height. Stay on a healthy diet and go for regular exercise to lower the risk of this or any type of cancer. Hormonal therapy can also be cause for male breast cancer.
4. Family history
The role of family history is a very common factor in this type of cancer and usually plays a prevalent role in the development of breast cancer in a man's body. Sometimes, there are people in your family who had breast cancer. Therefore, if your father, grandfather or uncle had breast cancer then you are at a higher risk of developing it.
6. Injury in testes
Having inflamed testicles known as orchitis or if you have had a surgery to remove a testicle, called orchiectomy can also put you at a greater risk of male breast cancer.
7. Smoking and alcohol
Smoking cigarettes and alcohol intake are also the causes of breast cancer in men. As per the doctor, you should restrict them to prevent and deal with this type of cancer. Many liver problems that are mostly found in alcoholics can also be a cause behind male breast cancer.
Male breast cancer diagnosis
Firstly, you will be asked about your family medical history to determine if it was the cause for breast cancer. Your doctor may do some diagnostic tests like a proper clinical breast exam. The doctor uses his/her fingers to examine your breasts and surrounding areas for lumps or any other changes. Your doctor has to check the size of your lumps, how they feel to know about the spread and how large the lumps are, how they feel, and how close they are to your skin and muscles. Imaging tests also help in developing pictures of your breast tissue that help doctors in identifying the abnormal areas. These tests involve a breast X-ray or an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to develop the images. Then, biopsy is the best way for male breast cancer diagnosis. To perform a biopsy, your doctor might use a needle device with the help of an X-ray or to get the root tissue from the potential cancerous area.
Treatment of breast cancer in men
The treatment of breast cancer in men is done on the basis of stage, type and overall health of the patient. The most common and effective male breast cancer treatment is surgery but it involves other treatment methods as well. As per Dr. Niranjan, the surgery is done mainly for two procedures, i.e to remove all of the breast tissue (mastectomy) or to rove a few lymph nodes for testing. Radiation therapy, hormonal therapy and chemotherapy can also be done to treat male breast cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are mostly done after the surgery. The lifestyle modifications that contribute in coping up from breast cancer in men are losing weight, having a healthy diet, daily workout and avoiding smoking and alcohol.
So, these were the types, stages, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of male breast cancer by Dr. Niranjan Naik. If you experience any of the above mentioned signs, then you should connect with a medical professional. It is adviced to avoid alcohol, smoking and maintain a healthy, balanced diet combined with regular exercise to prevent and cope up with this type of cancer.
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