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Breast cancer and men: know the risks

Did you know that men can also get breast cancer? Get the facts and what to look out for in this week's Top Facts.
Who's at risk?

Breast cancer in men is not as common as it is in women. It is over a hundred times more common in women than in men!
The average lifetime risk for men getting this variety of cancer is about 7 per cent; in women, it is much higher.
Also, like other cancers, the breast cancer gene can be inherited. In men, the inheritance rate is approximately 10-20 per cent. In women, the inheritance trace rate is 5-10 per cent.

What to look for

It could start as any mass or outgrowth in the breast. You should look for dimpling or puckering of the skin, retraction of nipples, any kind of discharge from the nipples, redness, ulceration, or scaling. You might also feel a lump.
It could also begin with changes in the colour of the nipples.
If you notice any changes, you should immediately see a physician. Symptoms shouldn’t be ignored.

Risk factors

Alcohol and certain kinds of drugs can increase the risk of breast cancer in men.
The same is true for drugs and medications that raise a man’s estrogen level. In certain cases, using them could even lead to a condition called gynecomastia – which causes swelling of male breast tissue.
Being overweight and having liver diseases can also aggravate these condition.

A visit to the physician and thorough check-ups is must to distinguish between abnormal but harmless growth (such as in gynecomastia) and breast cancer.

Prevention and care

Early detection of breast cancer is difficult with men as they would hardly notice a lump or changes in the colour of the nipples.
Men are highly unlikely to consult a doctor when the lump would grow large. So breast cancer in men is often detected at a late stage.
Also, in men, cancer doesn’t take much time to grow to the lymph nodes and other areas, as the breast tissue isn't as dense as it is in women. 
Because of which the prognosis is poorer in men than in women. Lifestyle choices – maintaining a good body mass index, regular exercise and cutting down alcohol consumption could be simple ways to reduce cancer risks.

Treatment options

Irrespective of gender and the type of cancer, treatment depends on the stage at which the cancer is detected.
The primary treatment is surgery – specifically known as mastectomy. That's the process of removing a certain cancerous portion of the breast tissue.
This could be followed by hormone therapy, which takes care of the imbalance of estrogen in men. Sometimes radiation therapy, as well as chemotherapy (oral pills and tablets), are used as well. Especially when it's a case of heavy metastasis – in other words, spreading of the cancer cells to other areas – radiation therapy becomes very important.


If you have any questions on this topic, ask us on our Facebook page or visit our discussion forum – Let’s Talk.

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