The Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), the country’s premier cancer treatment and research centre, is studying how women are able to fight breast cancer better than men.
In the backdrop of higher mortality rate in male breast cancer, a rare type of cancer that forms 1% of breast cancer cases, it’s been found that women do much better owing to more awareness and early diagnosis.
While the trend in men breast cancer patients has been steady, oncologists said men have minimal awareness when it comes to breast cancer as compared to women. “It’s so rare that spreading awareness and alerting men about it hasn’t been given a thought,” said Dr Rajendra Badwe, director, TMC.
For every 225 women, who are diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer at TMC in a year, around 10 men receive treatment for breast cancer. However, mortality rate in men remains high, due to delay in diagnosis and treatment. Incidence wise, one case is reported across a population of one lakh when it comes to breast cancer in men, who, in most cases, get the disease when they are aged between 60-70 years.
“Despite the rare occurrence of breast cancer in men, it is important that they are aware and educated about the symptoms of the disease. Breast Cancer in men is typically more aggressive as compared to women. In men, it is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola (ring of pigmented skin surrounding a nipple),” said Dr P Jagannath, oncologist at Fortis’ S.L Raheja Hospital, Mahim.
Oncologists from TMC are now trying to locate the scientific causes behind why men lag behind when it comes to coping up with cancer. “Not just breast cancer but in almost all the cancers, women generally do better than men when it comes to fighting back. Exactly why we are trying to find out the reasons behind this difference,” added Dr Badwe.
Risks men face in breast cancer cases
- Breast Cancer in a close female relative
- History of radiation exposure of the chest
- Enlargement of breasts (called gynecomastia) from drug or hormone treatments, or even some infections and poisons
- Estrogen consumption
- A rare genetic condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome (condition in which a male is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome)
- Severe liver disease (called Cirrhosis)
- Diseases of the testicles such as Mumps Orchitis, a testicular injury, or an undescended testicle
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis for men is done through mammograms and biopsies of the breast tissue.
The treatment varies from case to case and includes surgery, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
Most commonly, the treatment for men involves a mastectomy, which is the removal of the entire breast tissue.
Radiation is also administered in certain cases.