Breast cancer does not happen exclusively
in women. For men, any change in a breast, including lumps,
swellings or pain, should be investigated. For every 100 women
who are diagnosed with breast cancer, one man will also develop
The breast tissue of a man is similar to a woman’s;
men just have less of it and much fewer ducts and lobules.
Like women, these tissues are subject to change, however,
happening more often for men in their 60s and 70s. The most
common type of breast cancer in men is the same as in women,
ductal carcinomas. Once the questionable area is examined,
the testing to determine the stage of his breast cancer moves
forward, so that the correct stage may be established and
the best treatment plan may be prescribed.
This will usually include a biopsy of the tumor, either through
its surgical removal or the use of a thin needle or core needle
biopsy. The removed cells are then sent to a laboratory where
a pathologist studies them under microscope, determining if
the sample is from a benign tumor or a malignant cancer. If
it is a malignancy, the doctor will also determine the type
of cancer and its invasiveness. At this point, other tests
may be performed on the sample as well. Again, if this is
a malignant growth, this pathological examination and other
tests are part of the process used to determine the extent
of the breast cancer, using standardized levels (called stages).
It seems that high amounts of estrogen in the body, characterizing
some other disease conditions, like cirrhosis of the liver,
may contribute to breast cancer in men. Also, exposure to
radiation has been determined to be a risk factor. Studies
show that if the man has female relatives with breast cancer,
his chances of developing the disease rise. Like for females,
this may be due to mutations in his BRCA2 gene..
Once the stage of breast cancer is set, the man’s treatment
will be like that for a woman. The type of surgery, the use
of radiation, the type of chemotherapy, the use of hormonal
therapy – basically, the treatment will consist of whatever
is deemed necessary from the stage level of his breast cancer.
The recovery from breast cancer in men is the same as in women
with cancer at the same stage; a problem for men is their
discovery of lumps in more advanced stages.
Because men are not taught to do breast self-exams and because
physicians do not routinely perform breast exams on their
male patients, sometimes the lumps go unnoticed. Also, there
may be a small degree of embarrassment (and a subsequent delay
getting to a doctor) that a man could have a disease usually
considered a problem for women only. These are reasons for
the important need to get information about breast cancer
in men out to the male population.
Janet Brown is a medical writer
and graduate of Loyola University New Orleans. Her personal
experiences with breast cancer have drawn her to her current
work developing breast cancer patient education and awareness
materials. She currently lives in Georgia.