Male Breast Cancer: 6 Ways It's Different from Female Breast Cancer

Male Breast Cancer: 6 Ways It’s Different from Female Breast Cancer

Posted on: September 25, 2015

Even though male breast cancer is rare, you should never ignore a suspicious lump in the breast tissue. See your doctor. If the lump is cancerous, intervention can begin early.

Male breast cancer - facts from Mercy Cancer Center, Canton, Ohio, in 2015

Male breast cancer accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers. Although men and women are very different, male breast cancer is similar to female breast cancer pathologically, so much of the management is the same as well.

Some things about male breast cancer are very similar to female breast cancer:

  • Known risk factors include radiation exposure, exposure to female hormones (estrogen), and genetic factors. High estrogen exposure may occur by medications, obesity, or liver disease. Genetic links include a high prevalence of female breast cancer in close relatives. 
  • As with females, infiltrating ductal is the most common type of breast cancer. It is spread through the lymphatic and blood stream as other female breast cancer. Accordingly, the staging of breast cancers is the same for men and women. Most male breast cancers are hormone receptor positive. Treatment largely follows patterns that have been set for the management of postmenopausal breast cancer in women. Adjusted for age and stage the prognosis for breast cancer in males is similar to that in females.

Six ways male breast cancer is unique to men:

  1. Chronic alcoholism has been linked to male breast cancer.  The highest risk for male breast cancer is carried by males with Klinefelter syndrome.This is a chromosomal abnormality in which the male carries and extra X chromosome.
  2. While many women identify a breast cancer as part of their routine mammogram, men are more likely to find a lump in their breast tissue that leads them to seek out medical evaluation.
  3. Lesions are easier to find in males due to the smaller breast size; however, lack of awareness may postpone seeking medical attention. The presence of gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue in men) may mask the condition.
  4. The diagnosis is made later in males—at age 67 on average—than in females with their average at 63.
  5. Lesions are less contained in males as they do not have to travel far to infiltrate skin, nipple, or muscle tissue. Thus, lesions in males tend to be more advanced. Almost half of male breast cancer patients are stage III or IV. In familial cases, male BRCA2 carriers are at higher risk, rather than BRCA1 carriers.
  6. With the relative infrequency of male breast cancer, there is less available research about it.

What does all of this mean for you?

It means that even though male breast cancer is rare, you should never ignore a suspicious lump in the breast tissue. You should see your doctor so that if the lump is cancerous, intervention can begin early. Know your risk factors, and modify those that you can, such as weight management and minimizing alcohol consumption.

For more information about breast cancer in men, contact Mercy Cancer Center at 330-430-2788.

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