Did Know…Men Get Breast Cancer Too?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Christine Pierce
  • 22nd Medical Operations Squadron commander
Yes, it's a fact. Men get breast cancer too.

Larry knew he had a problem for a couple of years, a disfiguration. During a pre-employment physical the doctor recommended he have it checked out by his personal physician. By the time it was diagnosed, the breast cancer had metastasized to his hip requiring a hip replacement. Larry is living with metastatic male breast cancer!

Men do have a small amount of breast tissue and can develop breast cancer. In fact, men get the same types of breast cancers that women do. According to the American Cancer Society more than 1,600 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in men in 2005. Studies show that breast cancer in men is on the rise.

The number of breast cancer cases diagnosed in men is small potatoes compared to those in women. However, it is often diagnosed later than breast cancer in women resulting in an increased potential for tumors to spread. Men are less likely to be suspicious of an abnormality in their breast area. Furthermore, they have such a small amount of breast tissue that it's harder to feel the abnormalities, making early detection more difficult.

While breast cancer in men is rare, it is wise to take precautions. Early diagnosis could make a life-saving difference. One study revealed that the average time between first symptom and diagnosis of male breast cancer was 19 months. That's a dangerously long time.

The symptoms, diagnostic techniques and treatments for breast cancer are the same for both men and women. Due to the low incidence of this disease, breast exams are not a routine part of a physical exam for men. Therefore it's extremely important for men to perform monthly self exams. Here are some signs for both men and women to watch for and report to their provider immediately;

- a lump felt in the breast
- a marble like area of any size, under the skin
- nipple pain
- an inverted nipple
- nipple discharge
- sores on the nipple and areola
- itching, burning or scaling of the nipple
- noticeable flattening or indentation of the breast tissue
- a change in the size, texture, temperature, color of the breast tissue
- enlarged lymph nodes under the arm
- any area on one breast distinctly different from the other breast

Remember, early diagnosis could make a life-saving difference. Hopefully, through increased education and public awareness, men will learn that they too need to see their provider right away if they detect any persistent changes to their breasts.