Did you know that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in women? And according to statistics, one in eight women in the U.S. could develop breast cancer within her lifetime. However, this doesn’t mean males aren’t at risk for breast cancer.
While it might be relatively rare (about 1 in 1000 men), men can also develop this type of cancer. The reason is that even if men don’t develop breasts like women, there’s still a small amount of breast tissue where breast cancer can develop.
That’s why it’s important for men to be aware of the symptoms, causes, and risk factors for this type of cancer. It’s also a good idea to know the types of treatment available for them.
Breast cancer in men: the facts
One important thing to know about cancer is that it can develop in any cell type in your body. That’s why some men develop cancer in their prostate, lungs, liver, bones, and yes, even their breasts.
Cancer usually starts out as a normal cell, but for some reason it starts to grow out of control. These abnormal cells form tumors, which can be seen with the use of an x-ray, or felt as weird lumps.
Breast cancer can manifest as a small lump, but not all types can have this symptom. There are some cases where the cancer is already in an advanced state but there are no outward signs that there’s something wrong.
One common misconception about this type of cancer is that it’s more severe in men compared to women. But the reality is that it usually goes undetected in men until the cancer is in an advanced stage.
This is also the reason why cases of breast cancer in men are usually more severe compared to women, since men usually don’t notice any changes in their chest.
How does it spread?
Cancer spreads throughout the body if the cells get carried through a person’s bloodstream, or through the lymph nodes.
The scary thing about cancer of the breasts is that there are lymph nodes located right in a person’s chest. This means that if the cancer goes undetected, there’s a possibility that it can quickly spread throughout the body.
In this stage, it would be very difficult to treat the cancer, since the doctors need to find out where the cancer has spread. In some cases, the lymph nodes have to be removed in order to avoid spreading the cancer even more.
Cancers don’t always spread throughout a person’s body. But this doesn’t mean that cancer is usually isolated in a single body part or organ.
How can you treat breast cancer in men?
For the most part, the cancer treatment for this type of cancer in men is no different from the procedures done on women. A person can undergo either a local or a systemic treatment, depending on the severity of their condition.
Local treatments or therapies are isolated types of treatments. This means that the tumors are targeted specifically without any harm to other parts of the body. These are usually done for cancer in the early stages.
In local therapies, surgery can be an option. This includes treatment where the entire breast is removed in order to take out the breast tissue. Men usually undergo this treatment since men have very little breast tissue.
In some cases, removing the lymph nodes might be required if the cancer has spread to different parts of the body.
Another option under local therapy is radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill the cancer cells in the body. This is usually done after surgery to make sure that the cancer is completely eradicated.
The other form of treatment is systemic therapy. In systemic therapy, drugs are used to treat the cancer in the body.
It’s called systemic therapy because it can reach anywhere in the body. This type includes chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.
Systemic therapies are used in more advanced stages of cancer where the cancer has spread throughout the person’s body. These types of therapy are usually more aggressive and can cause a lot of difficulty for patients with severe stages of cancer.
What causes breast cancer in men?
Since it’s so rare, the causes of breast cancer in men are largely unknown. However, we do know the risk factors that can increase the possibility of a person developing this type cancer.
Here are some of those risk factors.
- Abnormal levels of hormones in the body
- Changes in a person’s genes or DNA
- Mutations in a person’s genes
- Old age
- Having a family history of breast cancer
- Exposure to radiation
- Drinking alcohol
- Smoking is a big risk factor, not just for breast cancer, but cancer in general
- Liver disease
- Being obese or overweight
- Testicular conditions, or previous testicular problems
How can it be prevented?
The truth is medical science has not yet advanced to a point where treatments and methods were able to cure cancer 100 percent successfully. However, there are ways that a person can reduce their risk of acquiring breast cancer. These include the following:
- Stay active and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol, or drinking in general.
- Stop smoking, since smoking is a risk factor for a lot of types of cancer.
- Early detection is also important. If you see any lumps or abnormal growth in your chest, it’s a good idea to get it checked by your doctor.
While breast cancer isn’t as prevalent among men compared to women, it’s still important to be aware of the risks. Keeping yourself active, eating right, and detecting any changes in your body are all important things to remember if you want to avoid breast cancer, or any type of cancer in general.
It’s best to stay healthy and strong so that you can live a more active and fulfilling life.