I am a man diagnosed with breast cancer

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I am over 50 years old and have a swelling in my right breast. Cells were removed and investigation showed that they are cancerous.  I have to undergo a therapy. I am surprised, is it possible for a man to have breast cancer? Please enlighten  me about the problem.

    – Gabriel L.

Yes, it is possible for men to have breast cancer. However, it is rare and accounts for only about 1% of all breast cancers. Breast cancer risk in men is increased by elevated levels of estrogen, previous radiation exposure, and a family history of breast cancer.

A lump beneath the nipple is the most common symptom of male breast cancer. Men possess a small amount of non-functioning breast tissue (breast tissue that cannot produce milk) that is concentrated in the area directly behind the nipple on the chest wall. Like breast cancer in women, cancer of the male breast is the uncontrolled growth with the potential for spread of some of the cells of this breast tissue. These cells become so abnormal in appearance and behavior that they are then called cancer cells.

What are the causes and risk factors of male breast cancer?

The following risk factors for the development of male breast cancer have been identified.

1.         Exposure to ionising radiation has been associated with an increased risk of developing male breast cancer.

2.         Men normally produce small amounts of the female hormone estrogen, but certain conditions result in abnormally high levels of estrogen in men. The term gynecomastia refers to the condition in which the male breasts become abnormally enlarged in response to elevated levels of estrogen.

3.         Klinefelter’s syndrome is an inherited condition affecting about one in 1,000 men. A normal man has two sex chromosomes (X and Y). Men with Klinefelter’s syndrome have an extra female X chromosome, resulting in an abnormal sex chromosome makeup of XXY and produce high levels of estrogen and develop enlarged breasts, sparse facial and body hair, small testes, and the inability to produce sperm.

4.         Cirrhosis can result from chronic alcohol abuse and chronic viral hepatitis.

What are male breast cancer symptoms and signs?

The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a firm, non painful mass located just below the nipple. There may not be other associated symptoms. The cancer may cause skin changes in the area of the nipple. These changes can include ulceration of the skin, puckering or dimpling, redness or scaling of the nipple, or retraction (turning inward) of the nipple. Bloody or opaque discharge from the nipple may also occur.

Breast cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bones may also produce bone pain at the sites of metastases. Advanced breast cancer can also produce symptoms typical of many cancers, including malaise, weakness, and weight loss. Breast cancer in men can spread to many other organs and cause other symptoms as well.

How is male breast cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosis of breast cancer requires identifying cancer cells in tissue specimens obtained by taking a sample of the growth – also called a “mass” or “tumor” – by the technique of biopsy.

What is the treatment for male breast cancer?

1.         Most men diagnosed with breast cancer are initially treated by surgery. A modified radical mastectomy (removal of the breast, lining over the chest muscles, and portions of the underarm or axillary lymph nodes) is the most common surgical treatment of male breast cancer.

2.         Chemotherapy refers to the administration of drugs that stop the growth of cancer cells, or even kill some of them.

3.         Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill tumor cells.

4.         Hormonal therapy prevents hormones from stimulating growth of cancer cells and is useful when the cancer cells have binding sites (receptors) for hormones.

Culled from: http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/health/i-am-a-man-diagnosed-with-breast-cancer/135935.html

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