Most men are of the view that breast cancer is limited to women only because they do not have breasts like them. The truth is that even men have a small amount of breast tissue, which does not grow like in women. While men are less likely to develop breast cancer, that is not completely impossible though. It is therefore important to develop some knowledge about what breast cancer in men would be like to take necessary steps while there is still time.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men
The development of a painless yet hard lump over one of the breasts is usually the most common symptom of breast cancer in men. You may also notice bloody discharge from one of the nipples along with some other symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, anemia, and unexplained weight loss. Other symptoms include the following:
- Your nipple may look depressed or retracted to one side.
- You may experience itching and pain at the nipple with scaling and redness.
- You may notice the mass fixed to the underlying muscles or tissues or it may be freely mobile on touch.
- You may notice puckering or dimpling of the skin when the mass is attached to the skin of your breast.
- You may have swelling around the collarbone or under the arm when the cancer spreads to lymph nodes.
In rare cases, you may notice enlargement of breast with hard breast tissue, swelling in the breast, skin changes, and swelling of the lymph nodes. The mass usually grows quickly in this case and is larger than 5cm.
When the cancer has developed to other areas, symptoms may also include shortness of breath, bone pain, nausea, etc.
Male and Female Breast Cancer Compared
While symptoms of breast cancer in men are quite similar to breast cancer in women, you will notice certain similarities and differences when you compare the both. For instance:
- Survival from breast cancer is quite similar in women and men.
- The types of tumors seen in both men and women are quite the same.
- The average age of diagnosis for men is about 5 years later than for women.
- Women do not have as many estrogen receptor containing breast tumors as men do.
Which Men Are More Likely to Get Breast Cancer?
While the symptoms of breast cancer in men can appear in anyone, the condition is relatively rare in men under age 35. The older you get, the higher the chances of you developing breast cancer. The condition is more common in men between ages 60 and 70. There are some other risk factors as well. For instance:
- You may develop it if one of your close female relatives has it.
- You have a history of radiation exposure to the chest.
- You have gynecomastia due to hormone or drug treatments.
- You may develop it if you take estrogen.
- You are at a greater risk if you have a liver disease like cirrhosis.
- You may develop breast cancer when you have a testicular disease such as mumps orchitis.
Staging of Breast Cancer in Men
The progression of breast cancer is divided into different stages to determine the extent of damage it has caused to your body. Staging of breast cancer in women and men is the same, and is determined by considering the lymph node involvement, tumor size, and presence of metastasis (if it has spread to other parts of the body through bloodstream).
It refers to ductal cancer in situ. In this stage, the cancer cells stay within the boundaries of the ducts.
In this stage, the size of the tumor is around 2cm, but the cancer does not affect the lymph nodes yet.
There are two categories of stage II cancers – stage IIA and stage IIB.
- The tumor size is around 2cm in stage IIA and it may have started affected the lymph nodes – it can be between 2cm and 5cm but may have not affected the lymph nodes.
- Stage IIB tumors may have not affected the lymph nodes but can be of 5cm or larger in size. If the tumor has spread to the axillary lymph nodes and is between 2cm and 5cm in size, it is also considered Stage IIB tumor.
This advanced stage cancer is further divided into other categories.
- If your tumor is smaller than 5cm in size but has already spread to the lymph nodes, which are attached to other structures or to each other, you have stage IIIA cancer.
- You have a stage IIIB tumor if it has already spread to surrounding tissues, such as chest wall, skin, or to the lymph nodes within your chest wall. The symptoms of breast cancer in men usually become quite severe in this stage.
This stage of breast cancer in men refers to metastatic cancer, which means the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. Metastases are usually found in the lungs, bones, brain, or liver.
How Is It Diagnosed and Treated?
Knowledge about different symptoms of breast cancer in men improves your chances of recovery. After you notice any symptoms, talk to your doctor who will perform physical exams and order biopsies and mammography.
The treatments used to treat breast cancer in women are also used to treat breast cancer in men, and the options include radiation, surgery, biological therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. The good thing is that men with breast cancer have a higher chance of recovering because they respond much better to hormone therapy than women do. Early diagnosis is again the key to successful treatment.