Breast Cancer and Men: What Are the Symptoms?
Men’s risk of developing breast cancer is much lower than women’s. About 1% of breast cancer diagnoses are for male patients. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that approximately 2,300 American men are diagnosed with breast cancer yearly.
One of the challenges and risks is that breast cancer is not readily recognized as a men’s health issue. And that is because of the rarity of diagnoses. But the truth is that recently there has been an increase in cases of male breast cancer.
According to the CDC, breast cancer has impacted about 1 in 1,000 men. But in recent years, that statistic has changed significantly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate that 1 in 833 men will develop and be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
Recent data suggests that men face significant delays in diagnosis. And that, in turn, means more men are diagnosed in the later stages of cancer development when fewer effective treatments are available.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, DocMJ wants to shine a spotlight on male diagnoses. And important things men should know about the risks, hereditary factors, and early symptoms of male breast cancer.
What Are The Symptoms of Breast Cancer for Men?
The symptoms of breast cancer are identical for men and women. But while women are educated by the medical community and encouraged to do self-examinations and screening, men generally are not. And men may not be aware of some early warning signs of breast cancer.
Education for early detection in women focuses on finding a lump or bump in the breast tissue. But men who develop breast cancer may have one of the more subtle warning signs that could go undetected.
Less-known symptoms of breast cancer can include:
- Discharge from the nipple
- Redness, dry or flaky skin in the breast area
- Pain in the nipple area
- Indentation or “pulling in” of the nipple (concave appearance)
Overall, there is less media attention paid to men’s health issues. Have you ever seen an advertisement suggesting that men should be tested for breast cancer? But that is starting to change. Instead of the traditional “pink ribbon” campaigns, there is a new pink and blue ribbon that acknowledges the disease, and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. And it is a positive step forward to increasing awareness and improving early detection rates for men.
Both Age and Ethnicity Can Increase the Risk of Male Breast Cancer Diagnoses
Research in the United States has shown a higher rate of breast cancer diagnoses among certain ethnic groups. This is true for both male and female patients who develop breast cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data from 2013 to 2017 regarding the mortality rates for men diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Black Non-Hispanic men had the highest rate of diagnosis of 1.98 in 100,000 standard population.
- White Non-Hispanic men had the second highest incidence of diagnosis for male breast cancer, at 1.3 in 100,000 average population.
- Non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders and Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native Americans had the lowest incidence rates for male breast cancer (0.7 and 0.6 per 100,000 respectively).
Ethnicity is not the only contributing factor to increased risk for male breast cancer; age plays a part too. And men aged eighty (80) years or older had the highest incidence and mortality rates for breast cancer (8.30 and 2.68 per 100,000). However, the majority of men are diagnosed at age sixty (60) to sixty-nine (69) years.
What Can Increase Your Risk?
People may be diagnosed with breast cancer, without a family history of the disease. Heredity has an influence, but there are many different health and lifestyle influences that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
The risk factors that can contribute to the development of breast cancer in men include:
- Natural aging
- Hereditary gene mutations
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Alcohol use
- Exposure to radiation
- Liver disease
- Hormone therapies
- Testicular conditions including undescended testicle, or orchiectomy
Both men and women diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher than average risk of developing a “second cancer.” That is a different type of cancer, in another area of the body, including rectal, pancreatic, or prostate cancer. Patients in remission from breast cancer also have a higher risk of developing basal and squamous cell skin cancer, and myeloid leukemia.
That is why, even after remission, patients diagnosed with breast cancer are required to conduct annual screening. Not just for breast cancer, but for other types of cancer as well. Because early detection of cancer is critical to the best treatment outcomes for patients.
How Can Men Be Tested and Screened for Breast Cancer?
One of the most effective and important tools for early detection is a mammogram. When a female patient notices an abnormality, the primary care provider (PCP) will send her for a mammogram. Which will help determine whether there are abnormalities that may indicate breast cancer.
But do men get a mammogram? Sometimes. But it depends on the amount of breast tissue the male patient has. For most men, there is not enough breast tissue to conduct an accurate mammogram.
Genetic testing for the two BRCA mutations associated with an increased risk of breast cancer can be conducted. However, it is not always covered by health insurance plans unless the individual has been previously diagnosed with cancer. Or if the patient has a family history of breast cancer, with close relatives diagnosed with the disease.
Overall Mortality After Diagnosis in Men vs. Women
While male patients only account for 1% of annual breast cancer diagnoses in the United States, the survival rate is lower. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate there are 2,300 men diagnosed on an annual basis.
Recent data reports that men have a higher breast cancer mortality rate than women. That may be due to less education and awareness about breast cancer diagnoses in men. And given the lower diagnosis rate, there has been less research historically on breast cancer as a men’s health issue.
The average number of men who have been diagnosed in the advanced stages of development is 5.8%. Comparatively, only 3.8% of women are diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. And patients who are diagnosed in stage three or stage four have fewer treatment options. Whereas early detection may intervene before cancer cells have metastasized or spread to other areas of the body.
According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for men diagnosed with breast cancer is 82%. However, survival rates depend on the stage of cancer development at the time of diagnosis.
How Can Men Reduce Their Risk of Developing Breast Cancer?
Maintaining healthy body weight and eating a balanced diet is the best start. That means adding more fiber, fruits, and vegetables to your diet and reducing processed meats, sugary foods, and drinks.
Both smoking and consumption of alcohol have been statistically proven to increase the risk of breast and other types of cancer. Avoid tobacco products, and talk to your doctor about smoking cessation plans to help you quit. And remember to moderate your alcohol consumption weekly.