Raising Awareness of Male Breast Cancer

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Most of the focus is on women rather than men, but we need to raise the awareness of male breast cancer (MBC).

Most of the general public thinks of breast cancer as only a woman’s disease. This misconception delays diagnosis for the too many men. Men need to be educated that they do in fact have breasts. Men need to be aware that they can in fact get breast cancer.

Each year ~2000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. Each year about 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. In the U.S., the ratio of female to male breast cancer is approximately 100:1 in whites, but lower (70:1) in blacks.

While male breast cancer is rare, it happens so men and their physicians should be aware of the possibility and should not ignore a lump in the male breast. Male breast cancer occurs most often to men between the ages of 60 and 70. Risk factors for male breast cancer include exposure to radiation, a family history of breast cancer and having high estrogen levels, which can occur with diseases like cirrhosis or Klinefelter's syndrome.

Symptoms of male breast cancer include a breast lump, changes to the nipple or breast skin, or discharge of fluid from the nipple. Treatment for male breast cancer is usually a mastectomy, which is surgery to remove the breast. Other treatments include radiation, chemotherapy and/or hormone therapy.

Routine screening mammograms are not recommended in men, but if a suspicious breast mass is present then a diagnostic mammogram may be done. The mammogram is abnormal in 80 to 90 percent of MBCs. The mammogram can usually distinguish between malignancy and simple gynecomastia.

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Male self-breast exams are best done in the shower using the following technique:

1. Make yourself soapy.

2. Place your left arm above and behind your head. With the three middle fingers of your right hand, press your breast against your chest wall.

3. In a circular motion, feel small portions of your left breast, going around until you have covered the entire breast and underarm. Make sure you do it slowly.

4. Repeat using your left hand to examine your right breast.

If any lumps, nipple discharge, or breast changes are found, see your physician as soon as possible.

Sources
National Institute of Health
John W. Nick Foundation

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