Despite the initial skepticism that some might feel when learning about male breast cancer, it is a very real disease. Stats wise, though men are only about 1% as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as women, in 2005 1,690 men found themselves facing just that reality. And it increased every year since that last study. Perhaps even more sobering is the fact that more then 25% of men who are diagnosed with it, die of male breast cancer.
This is crazy:
Many people argue that men don’t have breasts, but the truth is that all humans have some breast tissue. Even though men do not produce the estrogen and progesterone that stimulates breast tissue in women to grow into full breasts, all males do have at least some small portion of the tissue that is susceptible to breast cancer. The most common type of male breast cancer is infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC is a cancer that spreads beyond the ducts of the breast). Other kinds of breast cancer have appeared in men, however, including the extremely aggressive and dangerous inflammatory breast cancer.
The unfortunate side effect of there being so few cases of male breast cancer is that the amount of data available to study is minimal. This means that medical science is less sure of the risk factors for men, as well as less sure of the effectiveness of treatments. While there is a great deal that can be correlated from studies done on women, the physiological differences between the genders is, nonetheless, a hindrance to effective prevention and treatment.
This shortcoming of the field can become patently obvious when comparing male breast cancer detection to that of female breast cancer. For women, the medical community recommends that self-exams begin around 30 years of age, and that all women over 40 years of age have annual mammograms. In fact, mammograms are considered to be the most effective tool in early detection for breast cancer in women. Unfortunately, though men can do self exams, most would never even consider male breast cancer as the reason they may feel an abnormality in their chest. This leads to a slower response by those potentially at risk – even the men that might detect a lump don’t go to the doctor right away. This situation gets even worse when considering mammograms. Men simply cannot benefit from the technology. This eliminates the possibility of annual checkups turning happening to reveal a cancerous mass. It is likely that this lack of regular observation with breast cancer in mind is part of why this terrible disease seems to have a higher percentage of fatality in the men who are diagnosed with it.
As with any cancer, the key to fighting and surviving male breast cancer is knowledge and early detection. Men must be aware that there is a danger, even if it is much lower than for women, of breast cancer. Once informed, they can perform simple self-examinations. Some symptoms of male breast cancer are: lumps, swelling of the breast, dimpling or puckering of the skin, retraction (turning in) of the nipple, nipple discharge, and a scaling or irritation of the nipple or skin. Men who believe they have an irregularity in their breast should see their doctor and share their concerns.