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While breast cancer primarily affects women, it’s possible for men to get it, too. One in every thousand men is diagnosed with breast cancer. Yet the 5-year survival rate can be as high as 96 percent if the cancer is caught in its preliminary stages.
“Many believe that breast cancer only affects women. But people forget that men have breast tissue too,” said Nandini Kulkarni, M.D., medical director of Surgical Oncology for Inspira Health. “Because of this, men typically ignore the symptoms they might have. This not only impacts our ability to catch it early, but also stops patients from receiving the treatment they need.”
Breast cancer can develop in various parts of the breast, including the milk ducts, milk-producing glands and surrounding tissue (men have milk ducts and glands, though they are not functional). While finding a lump within the breast tissue is the most common way to detect breast cancer, there are other symptoms men should look out for.
“If you feel a lump (on your chest wall or around a nipple) or experience dimpling of the breast skin, an inverted nipple, breast redness or nipple discharge, you need to seek medical attention immediately,” said Dr. Kulkarni.
Unfortunately, as with many cancers today, the cause for developing breast cancer is still unknown. While we do not yet understand why breast cancer develops, several risk factors have been linked to an increased prevalence of breast cancer in men.
“Older men with high levels of estrogen and a family history of breast cancer have been associated with a predisposition to this disease,” said Dr. Kulkarni. “Additionally, those suffering from diseases like liver disease and obesity, which increase the estrogen levels in men, are associated with a higher likelihood of developing breast cancer.”
Treating male breast cancer depends on the stage and severity of the disease. Cancer treatments can range from local surgeries and radiation therapy, to chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
While one patient may need to have a mastectomy (removing the entire breast), others may need a more aggressive treatment plan with radiation or injections to prevent the cancer from coming back.
“Currently, there is no way for men to prevent getting breast cancer. But, there are three things you can do to lower your risk,” said Dr. Kulkarni. “Stay at a healthy weight, drink responsibly and maintain an active lifestyle.”
Because it can be difficult to diagnose male breast cancer, it is critical that you speak with your primary care physician about any changes you notice.
You can make an appointment with an Inspira primary care physician, imaging center or cancer specialist online or by calling 1-800-INSPIRA.