Men, Let’s Get Breast Cancer Off Our Chests

Breast Cancer Awareness Month generally focuses on women. But did you know: The American Cancer Society estimates more than 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the United States this year. About 520 men will die from the disease. [1]

It’s true: Men have breast tissue, and cancer cells can develop in almost every part of the body. These cells can gather and form a tumor that is malignant (cancer). The cancer cells can invade surrounding tissues and organs or spread throughout the body.

Also, benign (non-cancerous) breast tumors – papillomas and fibroadenomas – do not spread and are not life-threatening. These breast tumors, however, are rare in men.

You probably have heard of some of the men who have battled breast cancer:

Richard Roundtree – yes, Shaft was diagnosed in 1993; he underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.

Peter Criss – the former KISS drummer found a lump in his left breast after a workout in 2007; after surgery, he became an advocate for male breast cancer awareness.

The most common types of breast cancer: [2]

Ductal carcinoma in situ – non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer; DCIS cells have not spread into surrounding breast tissue (or outside the breast).

Invasive ductal carcinoma – starts in a breast’s milk duct; it grows into the breast’s fatty tissue (about 80% of male breast cancer is IDC).

Invasive lobular carcinoma – starts in the milk-producing glands and can spread to other parts of the breast and body (about 2% of male breast cancer is ILC).

Your risk of developing breast cancer may have several factors, including family history and Klinefelter’s syndrome (males born with more than one copy of the X chromosome).

Other risk factors to keep an eye on:

  • Older age (breast cancer is most often diagnosed in men in their 60s).
  • Exposure to estrogen (if you take hormone therapy for prostate cancer, the risk of male breast cancer is increased).
  • Liver disease (cirrhosis of the liver can increase male breast cancer risk).
  • Obesity (raises estrogen levels in the body, which increases the risk of male breast cancer).
  • Testicle disease or surgery (inflamed testicles or surgery to remove a testicle can increase male breast cancer risk).

There are several symptoms of male breast cancer to be aware of:

  • Changes to the skin covering your breast (dimpling, puckering, redness, scaling)
  • Changes to nipple (redness, scaling) or a nipple that begins to turn inward
  • Discharge from nipple
  • Lump or thickening in breast tissue

OK, macho man, we get it. You may be embarrassed about changes in your breast or chest area. Know this: Being aware of those changes is essential – and you should see a doctor. If you put off seeing a doc, it may delay a cancer diagnosis.

Being breast cancer aware isn’t just for the ladies. Guys, we have a responsibility to ourselves, and our loved ones, to be aware of changes in our breast, too. After all, the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better your chance for treatment and survival.



(1) Key Statistics for Breast Cancer in Men.

(2) What Is Breast Cancer in Men?

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