October has been observed as breast cancer awareness month and most men will think of this as women stuff and ignore the awareness campaign.
However the fact is that while not as common as it is in women, men can get breast cancer too and there are several known cases here in Cayman.
Breast cancer develops in the breast tissue that men have behind their nipples and men need to start paying attention to changes in their breasts just as they would pay attention to changes in their testicles.
Men with a history of breast cancer in either male or female relatives on either their father’s or mother’s side of the family are at increased risk.
A family history of ovarian or colorectal cancer may also increase a man’s risk of breast cancer as it is believed there is an association between these three types of cancer.
Men with hormonal imbalances leading to high levels of the female hormone estrogen have a greater risk of developing breast cancer as the more estrogen the body is exposed to over a lifetime there is an increase in risk.
There is also a genetic disorder known as Klinefelter’s Syndrome which increases a man’s risk of breast cancer.
Lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol intake, physical inactivity and obesity are also linked to an increase in risk.
Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to that in women and include a lump or swelling, changes in the appearance of the skin, changes to the nipple including having a discharge or inversion, rash or scaling of the skin around the nipple.
If breast cancer is suspected a doctor will order a mammogram and ultrasound just as when breast cancer is suspected in a woman. The further diagnosis e.g. a biopsy and treatment including mastectomy, chemotherapy etc. are similar to the protocol for women.
Men have very little breast tissue and so it is easier for lumps to be felt. However because of this lack of breast tissue breast cancer in men tends to spread more quickly than it does in a woman.
For more information on breast cancer talk with your doctor or contact the Cayman Islands Cancer Society at 949-7618.