Q:

Can men get breast cancer?

A:

Quick Answer

There is a lot of marketing aimed at raising awareness about breast cancer that afflicts women. What may be surprising is that men can, and do, also get breast cancer.

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Full Answer

Breast cancer is defined as cancer that occurs in breast tissue. Cancer can form in any tissues in the body. Because men have some breast tissue, men can also get breast cancer. Men make up less than one percent of all breast cancer cases in the United States, but it does occur. Some people might wonder how men have breast tissue if they do not appear to have breasts. Both genders are born with breast tissue and female hormones cause that tissue to grow after puberty. Because males have low levels of female hormones, the same growth does not happen in men. Many men may not be aware that they have breast tissue that can become cancerous.

Risk Factors
Just as with women, inherited genes and family history can be risk factors for men developing breast cancer. The BRCA2 gene, in particular, has been linked with causing breast cancer in both genders. A lesser-known cause is alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that high alcohol consumption and low liver function have been linked to breast cancer in men. Men are also generally diagnosed with breast cancer at a later age than women. The median age of breast cancer diagnosis is 68 for men and 62 for women.

Prevention
Unfortunately, because the causes of most cancers are unknown, there are not many known prevention techniques. The advice doctors give for men to prevent breast cancer is early detection and treatment. Men may not be checking themselves as often as women for breast cancer, so they may not see a doctor until a lump has gotten large. Generally, men are diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages. Warning signs for breast cancer in men include any changes in the breast tissue or nipple area. A doctor should be consulted at the first sign of any changes.

Treatment
Because there are so few cases of men with breast cancer compared to women, there have not been many clinical trials focused solely on treatment of breast cancer in men. The types of treatment include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and bone-directed therapy. As with any illness, it is important for a patient to discuss his goals and all treatment options with his doctor, including any side effects.

After Treatment
When treatment ends for breast cancer in men, followup care is very important. Continuous tests are important to detect if any cancer has come back and if further treatment is needed. Treatment can also cause swelling in the lymph nodes around the affected area that may need to be treated. Cancer survivors may decide to make healthier choices to increase their chances of a long and healthy life, including eating healthier foods, exercising more often and giving up alcohol or tobacco. Men who survive breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can often benefit from some type of emotional and psychological support to live a happy, healthy life.

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