It still surprises me today that many people don’t realise men can get breast cancer too. It is seen as a woman only disease because breasts are regarded as part of the female body and not the male. But I am sorry to say breast cancer does not discriminate, it can affect the old and the young, male or female regardless of race or ethnicity.
Ok so your chances are lower if you are man. Around 350 men a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK, but that is still 350 lives turned upside down with the life shattering news they have breast cancer.
Feelings of isolation, confusion and fear are common but that coupled with the fact that many believe they “can’t get breast cancer, I am a man” make a cancer diagnosis even more challenging.
Like women, an early diagnosis can make all the difference. The symptoms of breast cancer are often the same for both men and women, the most common being a lump. For men this is often close to the nipple, as most of the male breast tissue is beneath the nipple. Other symptoms include discharge, often blood-stained, that comes from the nipple; tender or inverted nipple; ulcers on the chest or nipple area; or swelling of the chest area and/or lymph nodes (glands) under the arm. And the advice remains the same for men as it is for woman, if you notice any chances to your breast tissue or nipples make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible.
Common questions regarding breast cancer in men
Can men have an ultrasound scan or mammogram (an x-ray of the breast) to test for cancer?
Yes. Although mammograms are not routinely offered to men as part of the national breast screening programme, both ultrasound scans and mammograms can be used following a breast examination as part of the assessment to diagnosis breast cancer.
Is the treatment the same as it is with woman?
Yes surgical treatment options for men diagnosed with breast cancer are the same as those for women. Men may also need a mastectomy (total removal of the breast tissue - the most common treatment for men) or lumpectomy (those with larger amounts of breast tissue), chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
Is the treatment different to woman post-surgery?
No. Men may also be prescribed Tamoxifen (anti-hormone therapy) if they have ER+ (oestrogen receptor) positive breast cancer. Studies show that taking the medication for five years improves survival, just as it does for women.
Is it important for men to self-examine their breasts?
Whilst breast cancer in men is rare, men carry a higher mortality rate than women do, primarily because awareness among men is lower and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment. Therefore men are often diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages than women.
If you or a loved one has noticed a lump around your nipple or are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, we recommend you contact your GP as soon as possible.