People tend to forget men have breast tissue and as a result can get breast cancer. Granted, this type of cancer typically occurs in women but men are not exempt. Breast cancer is more widespread in older men than younger males.
Males and females alike are born with breast tissue, consisting of milk producing lobules, fat and ducts that transport milk to the nipples. Women develop additional breast tissue during puberty but men do not.
Breast duct cells do not develop as much in men as they do in women because males generally have low levels of female hormones which influence the growth of breast cells.
The kinds of cancer diagnosed in males includes lobular carcinoma, a cancer beginning in the milk-producing gland, growing in the fatty tissue. However, this is a rare type of cancer in men because males don’t have many lobules in their breast tissue.
Another type is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is the most typical kind of male breast cancer. It starts in the milk ducts, which is where most male breast cancers originate. It is considered pre-invasive breast cancer or non-invasive because the cells lining the ducts have altered to look like cancer cells.
The cancer has not entered the walls of the ducts encasing breast tissue or extended outside the breast. This kind of cancer is almost always correctable with surgery. However, it can become an invasive cancer if not treated.
IDC or infiltrating (invasive) ductal carcinoma is another kind of breast cancer afflicting men. It smashes through the walls of the duct, growing through breast fatty tissue, metastasizing (spreading) to other body parts.
When a person has Paget’s disease of the nipple the cancer forms in the milk ducts and spreads to the nipples, resulting in scaly, crusty skin around the nipple. It can spread to the areola, the dark circle around the nipple. The nipple bleeds, burns, oozes and itches. A lump may be present.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is uncommon but hard-hitting. Sometimes people think they have a breast infection when in fact they have inflammatory breast cancer. The breast turns red, is warm and tender and swollen.
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Men can inherit mutated genes from their parents, just as women can, increasing their risk of breast cancer. A gene called BRCA2, which actress and activist Angelina Jolie inherited from her mother, prompting her to get a double mastectomy, puts a person in peril of developing both breast and prostate cancers.
When there is a mutation in a gene it is no longer helpful in protecting a person from cancer whereas a healthy, non-mutated gene affords protection by producing proteins that put a stop to cells growing aberrantly.
- The older a man is, the higher his risk. Breast cancer tends to zero in on men in the 60 to 70 age group.
- Do you have a family history of this disease? If so, that ups the chance you will get it.
- When a man is exposed to estrogen-related drugs this increases the danger.
- Obesity escalates the chance of breast cancer because the number of fat cells in the body are amplified. Fat cells convert male hormones (androgens) into estrogen. The more estrogen in the body, the more likely a person is to acquire breast cancer.
- Those with liver disease experience reduction of male hormones and an increase in female hormones, putting them in peril of breast cancer.
- Radiation treatments to the chest (radiation exposure) boosts the likelihood of developing breast cancer.
- Those with a genetic syndrome called Klinefelter’s are at risk because a man with this condition produces lower levels of specific male hormones and more estrogen, female estrogens.
Indications of Breast Cancer
Potential signs of breast cancer include discharge from the nipple; scaling or redness of the breast skin or nipple; nipples turning inward (retraction); skin puckering or dimpling and a lump, which is typically painless, and swelling.
Breast cancer can travel to the lymph nodes around the collar bone or under the area, resulting in swelling or a lump in that area.
So, men, it’s time to take a look at your chest and physically examine your breasts as well as visually checking them out.
If you see or feel something unusual do not hesitate to contact your physician. It could be the smartest move you’ve ever made.
Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism back in the dark ages (aka before computers, the Internet and cell phones. Heck, before electric typewriters!) A former newspaper writer/columnist and photographer, her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in national magazines. A full-time freelance writer, as well as an avid gardener, an artist and yoga aficionado, Cindi is a Baby Boomer and proud of it. She has survived the gnarly challenges of the sandwich generation and lived to tell the tale. Cindi has somehow managed to stay married to her first and only husband for nearly 35 years. They are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of one. She has five large, raucous dogs, five acres to mow on her beloved zero turn mower, and gets the biggest kick out of making people laugh on Facebook. (P.S. She refuses to cut her hair short.)