Since breasts are associated with femininity and child rearing, it is easy to overlook the fact that men have breast tissue, too. Young girls and boys have small amounts of breast tissue with only a few ducts (tubes that connect the lobules to the nipples) under the nipple and areola (the pigmented area that surrounds the nipple). At puberty, girls' ovaries produce hormones that cause breast ducts to grow; cause lobules or milk producing glands to form at the end of ducts; and stimulate growth of the stroma (fatty and connective tissues that surround the ducts and lobules.) When boys start puberty, their testicles produce hormones that prevent further breast development; however, the small amount of breast tissue remains.
Men with breast cancer may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
1.Abnormal lumps or swelling in the breast, nipple, or chest area
2.Skin dimpling or puckering
3.Nipple turning inward
4.Redness or swelling in the breast area
5.Discharge from nipple
As with women, certain risk factors - conditions or behaviors that increase a person's chances of developing a disease - are associated with breast cancer in males. They include:
1.Getting older: The average age of diagnosis for men with breast cancer is 60 - 70 years old.
2.Family history: Approximately 20% of all men who develop breast cancer have a close female relative who was diagnosed as well.
3.Radiation exposure: Prior exposure to radiation - generally for treatment of cancer located inside the chest - increases the risk of breast cancer.
4.Mutations of the BRCA2 gene - The breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) helps repair damage to DNA, thereby helping to prevent tumor development. However, inherited mutations in the gene may cause it to malfunction; thus increasing the risk of breast cancer.
Men with breast cancer face certain issues that can prevent early detection and/or worsen their conditions. For instance, because men have far less breast tissue than women do, detecting breast lumps and other abnormalities is generally easier. However, men often ignore the early signs of the disease because they believe only women develop breast cancer. Therefore, they attribute the symptoms to other ailments such as infection. Furthermore, some men are embarrassed by the fact that they found lumps in their breasts, so they put off seeing their doctors. Although having less breast tissue than women makes breast cancer in men easier to detect, this lack of tissue means the cancer does not need to grow far to invade the skin and muscles underneath the breast.
Perhaps only 1% of breast cancer is diagnosed in men. However, the disease is just as deadly and devastating. This is why men must become more aware of their risks of developing the disease and practice early detection methods, such as understanding their personal risk factors, knowing how to identify the early warning signs, and seeing a doctor, right away, if they have breast symptoms.