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MALE BREAST CANCER: What every man should know.

Updated: May 3, 2021

The Male Breast

Even though males do not develop milk-producing breasts, a man's breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. Even so, male breast cancer is very rare. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men, and only one in a thousand men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment.

Brief History

Breast cancer is as old as man. Several antiquated literature of Greece and Persia have mentioned in their texts about a mysterious mass afflicting the breast in both men and women.

In 1862, an antique forger and self-made Egyptologist known as Edwin Smith bought a fifteen-foot long papyrus from an antique seller in Luxor, Egypt. The papyrus was with yellow pages filled with cursive Egyptian script.

Translated in 1930, the papyrus is now thought to contain the collected teachings of a great Egyptian physician who lived around 2625 BC. known as Imhotep.

In this script, Imhotep writes after attending to a male patient: If you examine a case having bulging masses on the breast and you find that they have spread over his breast, if you place your hand over the breast and find them to be cool, there is no fever, no granulation, no fluid, no liquid discharge yet they feel protuberant to your touch, you should say concerning him: " This is a case of bulging masses of the breast which are large, spreading and hard, or they may be compared to the unripe hemat fruit which is hard and cool to touch"

What Are The Male Breast Cancer Risk Factors?

Environmental and genetic risk factors for male breast cancer have been identified. Male breast cancers are reported to be associated with the following:

1. Previous history of breast disease.

Breast disease is a well-known risk factor for breast cancer, although the magnitude of the association varies by disease type. Breast Disease represents a composite of clinical and histopathological diagnoses of breast tissue lesions including developmental abnormalities like cysts, inflammatory lesions like mastitis and fibrosis, and proliferation within breast tissues.

2. Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia refers to enlarged male breast tissue and it may slightly increase your risk of breast cancer due to the change in the ratio of estrogen to testosterone in the body.

Gynaecomastia also known as Man Boobs.

3. Family history of breast cancer

Men with close relatives who've been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease.

If you've had one first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk is doubled.

If two first-degree relatives have been diagnosed ( Mother then sister), your risk is 5 times higher than average. If your brother or father have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk is even higher.

In some cases, a strong family history of breast cancer is linked to having an abnormal gene associated with a high risk of breast cancer, such as the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene. BRCA stands for Breast Cancer gene.

BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are human genes that produce proteins which help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of each cell’s genetic material.

When either of these genes ( BRCA I or BRCA 2 ) is mutated or altered, such that its protein product is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.

A harmful BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation can be inherited from a person’s mother or father.

4. Having a genetic disorder called Klinefelter syndrome

Klinefelter syndrome refers to a group of chromosomal disorders in which the normal male karyotype, 46, XY, has at least one extra X chromosome. It is also the most common chromosomal disorder associated with male infertility.


Klinefelter syndrome is characterized by

  • Small testes,

  • Oligospermia and Azoospermia i.e low or zero sperm count

  • Gynecomastia in late puberty,

  • Undesirable behaviours.

Male Breast Cancer Symptoms

The most common symptom of male breast cancer is a painless lump or swelling behind the nipple. Other symptoms can include a discharge from the nipple or a lump or thickening in the armpit.

Self-examination of the breast in men

Although most men diagnosed with breast cancer are older than 65, breast cancer can appear in younger men. For this reason, any breast lump in an adult male is considered abnormal and should be checked out by a doctor.

This study suggests that unmarried males with breast cancer are at greater risk for Stage IV disease at diagnosis and poorer outcomes compared with married males.

In addition, since there is no routine screening for breast cancer in men it is important to have lumps in the breast and/or thickening in the armpit checked.

Treatment for Male Breast Cancer

Male breast cancer is usually treated with surgery to remove the breast and lymph nodes. This type of surgery is known as a modified radical mastectomy.

Mastectomy was first attempted by a German Surgeon known as Richard Von Volkmann and an English surgeon known as Charles Moore in1860. Radical mastectomy was perfected by their student, an American surgeon known as William Steward Halsted in 1877.

Since male breast cancer is so rare, there hasn't been the opportunity to research breast cancer treatments for men.

Male breast cancer is similar to female breast cancer so some of the same treatments may be used. These include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.

Preventing Male Breast Cancer

To lower the risk of breast cancer, men can do the following:

  • Maintain an ideal body weight.

  • Be active and exercise regularly.

  • Eat healthy.

  • Restricting alcohol consumption.

  • Early detection and prompt treatment.

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