Men can get breast cancer, too

OK men, it is October and we have a serious topic this month. How many of you have thought about breast cancer? What about male brea
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

OK men, it is October and we have a serious topic this month. How many of you have thought about breast cancer? What about male breast cancer? I would bet relatively few have considered it.

Did you know that there are 1,990 new cases of male breast cancer diagnosed each year? Of those diagnosed, about 450 die each year. Now, the damage is minuscule compared to havoc breast cancer wreaks on our better halves, but male breast cancer warrants discussion as the incidence has increased 26 percent over the past 25 years.

So which men get breast cancer? Most cases appear to be random, but recent studies have revealed some possible risk factors.

Testicular abnormality (undescended testes, inguinal hernia, infection or injury).

Infertility may play a role, as well as genetic disorders.

Family history is important. BRCA1 and BRCA 2 are genes passed on in families and incur a 2 to 6 percent increased risk in developing breast cancer over a lifetime.

n Radiation exposure.

n Increasing age. Male breast cancer is most common between the ages of 60 and 90.

n Jewish ancestry.

n Alcohol. Heavy alcohol intake increases the risk of breast cancer in men.

Clinical features of male breast cancer can be subtle. Typical symptoms may include a firm palpable mass or lump that is often painless. This mass is usually subareolar, or beneath the nipple. Some cases may have nipple retraction. Rarely, there is nipple discharge or bleeding.

Most cases occur in the left breast. Men diagnosed with male breast cancer should be referred for genetic counseling and BRCA testing.

What do you do if you fall into the above categories? The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends self breast exams monthly. Clinical breast exams are recommended every six months. Mammography is recommended if there is enlarged breast tissue (gynecomastia). It is also recommended that one adhere to other recommendations for prostate and colon cancer screening.

As always, discuss any concerns or risk factors you have with your physician. If you notice something is wrong physically, don't assume it is nothing. Get it checked. Male breast cancer is rare, but it does occur. Until next time, good health.