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The Oxymoron of Men With Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is associated with pink ribbons, October and women; however, men can suffer from it too.

The tendency to leave half of the global population out of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is understandable because the majority of the breast cancer victims are women.

But men also get breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2010 there were about 1,970 new cases of men diagnosed with breast cancer, which would ultimately lead to about 390 deaths. That, of course, pales in comparison to the 40,000 women’s lives claimed by breast cancer yearly.
That doesn't mean, however, that male breast cancer can be ignored.

Probable victims

Breast cancer can affect males of any age, although most of the victims are usually those in the age ranges of 60 to 70.
Like the causes of female breast cancer, which have not completely been pinpointed and identified, the same situation happens in male breast cancer. Environmental influences and genetic factors are among the suspected causes. Those considered at highest risk are men who've undergone radiation therapy for treatment of malignancies, such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma on the chest area.
Another group of men who are at risk at those with very high levels of estrogen, the female hormone, which males actually produce in minute amounts only. Due to the increased level of estrogen, these men are considered receptor-positive positive for the female hormone as they grow in response to its stimulation.
Other conditions that are known to increase the estrogen levels in men include Klinefelter’s syndrome, cirrhosis of the liver and obesity. And of course, steroid use.
Klinefelter’s syndrome refers a hereditary condition that affects one out of 1,000 males. Those who have the syndrome were found to have the XXY chromosome, which is normally XY only. The extra X female chromosome is the reason why some men grow breasts, have little facial and body hair, small testes and can not produce sperm.
When men drink too much alcohol over too long of a time, they could develop liver cirrhosis - although the ailment could also be a rare hereditary trait characterized by build up of toxic substances in the liver. The consequence of such accumulation is higher levels of the female hormone in the blood and greater chances of acquiring breast cancer.
Steroid users are of a higher risk than most other men simply because of gynecomastia. "Gyno," as it's more commonly referred to as, is when the hormone imbalances in the body lead to the development of breasts on the male body. With the development of these breasts, come all the complications that are associated with the area - including breast cancer.


Among the tell tale signs of breast cancer is a firm, mass located just under the nipple. Nota bene, it may not be painful. In some instances, there could also be noticeable changes in that area, such as wounds, redness or a change in the direction of the nipple from outward to inward. Other symptoms include a liquid discharge that could be red or opaque in color. In case the breast cancer had advanced, the patient may suffer from pain in the bones, while those in advance stages could also go through noticeable weight reduction, general weakness and depression.
Because of the smaller breast size of men in comparison to women, it is easier to spot lesions. However, because of lack of awareness and general male hesitancy to seek treatment unless the condition requires medical attention, many breast cancer cases among men are diagnosed only after the cancer has spread to the advanced stages.

Types of male breast cancer

There are five known types of breast cancer in men:
  1. The first is called ductal carcinoma in situ. In this type, the cancer cells take shape in the breast ducts but the growth doesn't spread outside the breast. Cancer of this nature happens in one out of ten cases, but in most cases it could be cured through surgery.
  2. The second is invasive ductal carcinoma. This type of cancer - which occurs in about eight out of ten cases - goes through the duct wall and the fatty tissue. It has the risk of moving to other body parts.
  3. The third type, the invasive lobular carcinoma. It begins in the lobules of the breast and grows into the fatty tissue. Only two percent of male breast cancers are of this type because most men lack lobular tissues, which are the collections of cells in women responsible for the production of breast milk.
  4. In the fourth type, lobular carcinoma in situ, abnormal cells start in the lobules but do not spread into the fatty tissues. This is often classified a non-invasive type of cancer, but it nevertheless is still a risk factor for breast cancer among males.
  5. The fifth type is the Paget disease of the nipple. The ailment begins in the breast ducts and moves to the nipple. Symptoms of Paget disease are crusting, scaling and redness in the nipples with areas that itch, ooze or bleed.

Protection against breast cancer

Like other ailments, among the best ways to protect one’s self against male breast cancer is with regular medical check-ups and a healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, most males have a natural resistance to visit the doctor unless they feel extreme pain. Additionally, most men feel emasculated when they're told they may suffer from what is generally perceived as a woman's disease. There's also a general lack of knowledge regarding breast cancer instances in men.  It's for these reasons that male breast cancer often goes undiagnosed until the condition is advanced.
Men need to understand that although male breast cancer is rare - it does occur. Men who notice any changes to their chest area are encouraged to report their findings to their health care professional right away, especially men who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
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