Can breast cancer happen to men too?

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Most people believe that breast cancer can only happen to women, but that’s not the case. Men can be victims too, which is why it is important to get diagnosed in time.

A 70-year-old man was diagnosed with breast cancer in New Delhi recently, shattering the myth that the disease is merely restricted to women. 

According to reports, the patient underwent modified radical mastectomy in September this year and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. He is responding well to the treatment as well, as per the doctor.

But what it has done is sparked talk about the reality that men too can develop the disease, although its incidence is rare. 

breast cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Dr Anil Haroor, Director — Advanced OncoSurgery Unit (AOU), Fortis Hospitals, Mumbai, tells HealthShots that statistically, men account for 1% of breast cancer cases. He says, “Individuals must be well-aware of the ailment, regardless of gender, to ensure timely diagnosis and preventive treatment.”

A startling fact he shared is that studies suggest that the mortality rate for men with breast cancer is comparatively higher than women because of a lack of awareness, causing a delay in detection. But in recent times, the incidence of male breast cancer has increased. 

Let us tell you a little about it, as shared with us by Dr Haroor.

Breast cancer occurs in the breast tissue. The different types being:

Ductal carcinoma: This is when cancer begins in the milk ducts. Most male breast cancer cases are of this type

Lobular carcinoma: Cancer begins in the milk-producing glands and is rare in men.

Typically, breast cancer can be more aggressive in men as compared to women. The standard symptoms for the condition include
  • Painless lump, breast tissue thickening
  • Redness, scaling or puckering of the breast skin
  • Discharge from nipples
  • Redness, scaling of nipples
Why do breast cases in men take longer to diagnose?

Many men also feel hesitant to seek professional medical aid regarding the exhibitory signs of the disease. Dr Haroor describes the story of one such patient, a 45-year-old male government employee who visited Fortis Hospital, Mulund with complaints of an enlarged breast and no pain. It was just discomfort and embarrassment from the physically larger breasts. 

breast cancer
In the fight against breast cancer, a loving partner can truly help heal. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The patient delayed consultation from a doctor for a long time until they became big and uncomfortable enough to not ignore anymore. Post examination of the patient, we figured out a hard lump. It was about to protrude and burst through the skin. Thus, malignancy was immediately suspected in this case. The first course of treatment was chemotherapy to reduce the size of the lump. The patient then underwent surgery, where he had his breast tissue and the affected muscle removed. 

Also, read: Breast cancer can run in the family: All you need to know about genetic screening to check your risk

For men, it is challenging to get screened through mammography. Hence, we performed sonography and a biopsy, diagnosing cancer. Due to the unfortunate delay in receiving proper medical treatment, his cancer had locally advanced quite a bit. The presence of very little breast tissue in males further fuels the rapid spread of cancer. However, for this patient, it had only affected his muscles and not vital organs such as the liver, lungs, brain, etc.

The last word

It is pretty common for men to avoid the doctor from shame. But one must essentially not disregard this, especially if it’s enlarged breasts. Chances are, it may be cancer. Dr Haroor further says, “If the individual has a family history of cancer, they are highly susceptible. Hence, it is in one’s best interest to not turn a blind eye to any breast lumps or other symptoms, and be vigilant”. 

The expert recommends that patients take up creative activities and get plenty of exercises to keep their spirits up and help them through therapy. 

(With Inputs from PTI)

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