Male breast cancer is a rare form of malignancy that can spell dire consequences for men, especially when the disease has a chance to become metastatic. Breast cancer in men accounts for significantly less than 1% of all mammary cancers reported worldwide, with the remainder affecting women of many ages and backgrounds.
Some men are unaware that they can even develop mammary cancer, making prevention and diagnosis difficult. Virtually no men realize that they might demonstrate risk factors that actually dispose them to an increased chance of being affected by male cancer of the breast at some point in life.
This essay is part two in our series on breast cancer that affects males. We will further our education efforts herein by detailing the diagnosis, symptoms and treatment options for male mammary cancers. Remember to share this article with all the men in your life, particularly those who are at heightened risk for cancer development.
Male Breast Cancer Detection
Many men simply have no idea that they can develop breast cancer. Therefore they do not recognize when they are exposed to risk factors that enhance their chances of suffering a neoplastic process in the breast. Additionally, they do not perform self exams that might find evidence of breast cancer in its earliest forms. Worst of all, although many men do discover the symptoms of breast cancer in their own bodies, they do not think much of these expressions, since they view themselves as immune to the possibility of developing cancer in a traditionally female location.
Detection of breast cancer in most men is easier than in females, due to less breast tissue, but the spread of the disease is often faster for this same reason. After all, less insulation of lymph nodes, blood vessels and other critical tissues by glandular and fatty components allows the invasion of cancer cells quicker and more readily than in the female breast structure.
Smart men usually seek medical consultation when they discover any abnormality under the surface of the breast, chest, collarbone or axilla. Likewise, they will seek a medical opinion on any surface indication that something might be wrong, such as an unexplained rash, nipple discharge, wound or other mark on the skin, especially on or around the nipple-areola complex.
Once brought to the attention of properly trained medical provider, cancer can be detected and confirmed through many possible tests and evaluations including physical exam, mammography x-ray, ultrasound, MRI or biopsy. To check for cancer metastasis locally, regionally or systemically, x-rays, CT scan, MRI, bone scans, ultrasound and PET scan are all useful and effectual tools used during the diagnostic process.
Male Breast Cancer Symptoms
The following are all possible signs of male mammary cancer. However, some of these symptoms can also involve other far less serious health issues, so no assumptions should be made until complete diagnostic processing is complete:
A lump or bump in the breast itself, near the collarbone or near the underarm is a traditional sign of many forms of breast cancer.
Skin rashes, redness or scaling, dimpled skin, itchiness, bleeding or usual marks on the breast or chest wall can be indicative of certain varieties of cancer. Some cancers appear very much like infections, creating general redness, sensitivity, pain, inflammation, even without the presence of a palpable mass or discharge occurring.
Changes in the appearance of the nipple or areola, such as inversion or excessive protraction, might indicate cancer formation. Similarly, discharge from the nipple is a common warning sign of cancer.
Male Breast Cancer Treatment
Prior to beginning treatment, all breast cancers must be staged and classified by type. Once the type and stage of cancer is ascertained, a treatment plan can be drafted and executed to provide the best results, with the least risk to healthy cells.
Treatment prognosis is usually favorable in all but the worst cases of invasive and metastasized disease processes. Obviously, the earlier the cancer is found and the less it has spread, the better the chances of enjoying a complete recovery and the less invasive the therapies will have to be to elicit this cure.
Some of the most common treatment approaches for all manner of male mammary cancers include all of the following care paths:
Surgical or needle biopsies are often used to check for cancer spread or during the initial diagnostic process for the primary cancer formation.
Open surgery is often utilized for virtually all forms of breast cancer in men. Mastectomy is normal and may also include lymph node removal or excision of affected skin, muscle and other tissue types.
Radiation therapy might be needed as an adjunct to surgery, especially for more aggressive cancers.
Chemotherapy is usually reserved for invasive cancers, metastatic cancers and very large cancers. Chemo involves systemic use of very powerful and toxic chemicals, so it is avoided whenever possible due to its far-ranging negative health consequences.
Hormone therapy can reduce the influence of female hormones in the male body, halting and even potentially reversing cancer growth.
Targeted therapy uses special drugs and modalities that act directly and locally on the cancer formations.
Bone-directed therapy is used when cancer cells have spread into the skeletal structures.
Complementary therapies can include an exhaustive array of alternative and complementary healing arts ranging from dietary alteration to massage to mediation to mindbody work to chiropractic. Anything that might improve general health and wellness may be a valuable asset in the fight against cancer. Most patients will utilize a combined care approach to cancer treatment, including traditional medical, mindbody and complementary medical practices.