Did you know that men might be at risk of developing breast cancer? The risk factor is much smaller in men, but they do have breast tissue and they are at risk of developing this disease. Before puberty, young women and boys have small amounts of breast tissue with just a few ducts.
When they reach puberty, a young womans ovaries start producing hormones that cause the breast ducts to grow and develop lobules (milk glands) to form on the ends. A young boys Testosterone level raises and prevents any further growth of breast tissue.
The cells of a mans breast can undergo changes and become cancerous. They have less breast tissue so the risk factor is reduced. Womens breasts are constantly being fed by female hormones and make the risk of breast cancer higher for women. Men who have a history of breast cancer in the female side of the family should be aware they are at risk for developing the disease too.
Are Men at Risk?
Other breast disorders such as benign tumors are more common in women but can develop in mens breasts. Benign tumors do not spread outside the breast. They are also not life threatening. Malignant tumors can be life threatening and may occur in both men and women.
Detecting breast cancer in men is important because it can quickly be carried to the lymph nodes by lymphatic vessels. Cancer cells entering the lymph nodes are transferred to other organs of the body and the cancer is harder to fight and more deadly. Breast cancer in men will normally start around the nipple area.
Benign breast disorders are also common in men. Gynecomastia is one of the most common found in men. An increase in breast tissue occurs and a small disk or button like growth is found under the nipple. Normally this isnt seen but can be felt with the fingertips.
This normally happens in young boys who are experiencing hormonal changes but occur in older men when their hormones become unbalanced. Tumors or diseases of the endocrine gland can cause this condition, but this is rare. Liver disease and obesity can cause hormone imbalance and can lead to gynecomastia.
Men may develop adenocarcinoma, which is a breast cancer that starts in the ducts or lobules of the breast. There are two main types of carcinomas, one is ductal, and the other is lobular carcinoma. Lobular carcinoma is rare in men because they do not usually have lobular tissue.
Ductal carcinoma in situ is a cancer that fills the ducts but dont go through the walls to other tissues in the breast or spread outside the breast. It is usually curable. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma starts in the breast ducts and metastasizes or spread to other parts of the body. This cancer accounts for most of breast cancers in men.
Men should be aware of any changes in their breasts, including crusting, scaling, and itching around the nipple area. A lump may also be detected by self-exam. Men, if you have breast cancer in female family members, check for any changes in your own breasts.