Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What men need to know about breast cancer

ByParmita Uniyal
Oct 22, 2021 01:14 PM IST

Men may not get diagnosed for breast cancer at an early stage if they ignore its symptoms due to fear of stigma. Here's what they need to know.

Breast cancer can affect men too although it's more common in women. Approximately 1-2% of all breast cancer patients are men yet when it comes to diagnosis, they may face a unique set of challenges. Men tend to ignore the symptoms of breast cancer due to fear of stigma and may be diagnosed at an advanced stage and have poorer outcome as compared to women.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month(Pexels)
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month(Pexels)

"Men suffering from Klinefelter syndrome (where they are born with an extra X chromosome) are at risk of getting breast cancer as they have higher estrogen levels and get gynecomastia that outgrow breast tissue in males," says Dr Aditi Agrawal, Consultant Breast and Laparoscopic Surgeon, Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road.

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Breast cancer starts in the milk ducts and the lobules, which are the structures containing the milk-producing glands. Male and female breast tissue have few ducts under the nipple and areola until puberty. During puberty, females see increased levels of various hormones like estrogen causing ducts to grow and lobules to form. While in males, owing to low levels of these hormones, ducts, lobules are few and tend to consist of fat tissue, according to Dr Agarwal.

ALSO READ: Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 5-step self-examination guide you must follow

In women on the other hand, early start of periods before the age of 12 and late menopause, after age of 55, giving birth for the first time at an older age, or never giving birth increases the risk of breast cancer.

Dr Agarways says age and genetics are common factors seen in both males and females when it comes to breast cancer. She says other common factors which can be taken care at an individual level are smoking, previous radiation therapy, alcohol and lack of exercise.

Symptoms for both men and women

Females and males having breast cancer will spot symptoms such as bumps and lumps, swelling in one or both the breasts, feeling tenderness, soreness, discharge from the breast, itchy skin around nipples, inverted nipple, thickened skin on the breast and pain. "In males as the breast is small in size is recognised at a small size but spreads fast to neighbouring structure/organs," says Dr Agarwal.

A mammogram and a biopsy remain the diagnosis tools for both men and women to determine if the lump is cancerous.

"After the type, location, and stage of the cancer are confirmed, your doctor will decide on a proper line of treatment for you. You will be asked to opt for a mastectomy, lumpectomy that falls under surgery. Apart from that, other options such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy can also be advised to you," says Dr Agarwal when asked about the treatment for breast cancer.

It is also advised to make lifestyle modifications like exercising every day, avoiding weight gain and eat balanced diet of leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and whole grains. One should also do self-breast examination from the age of 18.

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