Breast cancer in men is rare compared to cases of breast cancer in women – around 340 men are diagnosed each year in the UK, compared to nearly 60,000 women.
But it is perhaps because of this rareness that many men may mistakingly ignore symptoms of breast cancer. Around 75 men die of the disease in the UK each year.
“The survival rate is lower for men than for women, but this is generally due to the lack of awareness around the symptoms, not because the cancer is more aggressive in men,” Jayne Molyneux, cancer healthcare manager at Bupa tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.
“As with all cancers, early diagnosis is key – the earlier a diagnosis is made, the more likely the individual is likely to make a full recovery.”
What Are The Symptoms Of Male Breast Cancer?
“The most common symptom for breast cancer in men is a lump,” Breast Cancer Care clinical nurse specialist Catherine Priestley tells us.
“It’s usually near the centre, close to the nipple, because most of the breast tissue in men is beneath the nipple. But lumps can also occur away from the nipple.
“Other symptoms include: nipple discharge (often blood stained), a tender or inverted nipple or an ulceration or swelling of the chest area.
“However, even if it doesn’t fit with the symptoms above, it’s important men report a change which is not normal for them.”
Who Is At Risk Of Male Breast Cancer?
According to Breakthrough Breast Cancer, anyone can be affected by male breast cancer, but there are some things that can increase your risk of developing the disease.
Breast cancer risk increases as we age and men over 60 are most likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
A family history of breast cancer also increases an individual’s risk.
“About three or four out of every 20 men with breast cancer have inherited faults in genes. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, it is possible you might carry these faulty genes,” Breakthrough Breast Cancer explains.
“People with a family history of breast cancer tend to have an unusually high number of close relatives (mother, sisters or daughters) on one side of the family with breast cancer and/or relatives who developed breast cancer at a young age.”
Anyone who has undergone radiotherapy treatment to the chest may also have an increased risk, as well as anyone who has had prostate cancer is the past.
Recent studies have also suggested men with naturally high levels of the female hormone oestrogen are at greater risk of the disease than other men.
What Should You Do If You Spot Symptoms Of Male Breast Cancer?
You should always visit your GP if you notice a lump in your breast, or you have problems affecting your nipples – they can then run tests to see if these are symptoms of breast cancer.
What Treatment Is There For Male Breast Cancer?
“Treatment for male breast cancer is very similar to female breast cancer – it can involve surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy and really varies on a case by case basis,” Molyneux says.
“While men who have breast cancer may not face the same extent of reconstruction, they may well be affected by body image issues and this may impact them and their relationships.
“They should be encouraged to seek advice and support on how to live with these side effects of breast cancer.”
How Can You Reduce Your Risk Of Breast Cancer?
Drinking alcohol in moderation, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet may all reduce your breast cancer risk.