(WGHP) — 284,200 people are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society.
Of those, about 1% of them will be men. That is nearly 3,000 men diagnosed with breast cancer per year.
“In terms of men versus women, in general, the types of breast cancers remain the same, the risk factors are also a little bit similar in terms of men and women,” said Dr. Vina Gudena, Cone Health breast cancer specialist.
While breast cancer in men is rare, it is also easier to detect in the early stages
“Men don’t have that much breast tissue,” said Dr. Judy Tjoe, breast surgery medical director at Novant Health. “So oftentimes when they have a lump we can feel it or we can see the skin changes particularly since most of the breast tissue is right behind the nipple so those changes are obvious in men.”
However, as with any type of cancer, the key to treating it is catching it early. Breast cancer can metastasize, or spread, into other organs like the lymph nodes, bones, liver, and even the brain. If the cancer progresses to this point the prognosis can be much grimmer.
“It is unfortunate that even though 1% of breast cancers are affecting men the percentage of them who die is actually a little bit higher than in women because it is later staged, because it is not brought to someone’s attention,” Tjoe said.
So talk to your doctor if you notice a lump in your breast, or if fluid is leaking from your nipple. An ultrasonogram or mammogram can check to see if it is a tumor or something more benign.
These are the exact same tests used to diagnose breast cancer in women, and they work just as well on men.
“Breasts are just like any other part of the body that we need to be attentive to,” Gudena said. “Just like you are checking your cholesterol levels to prevent stroke or heart attack you need to be checking yourself and making sure you are not feeling any concerning lumps.”
You should also check out your family history. There are genetic mutations to two genes BRAC1 and BRAC2 that increase a person’s risk for breast cancer, both for men and women.
In many cases, doctors will test for this mutation after a positive breast cancer diagnosis and if a member of your family tested positive for this mutation, even if you don’t develop cancer, you may want to get tested to see if you could be passing it on to your children.
The treatments for breast cancer are the same for men and women and can include surgery, hormone blockers, radiation therapy, or any combination of the three.
The important thing is to be open and talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
“Please don’t feel embarrassed,” Tjoe said. “In my 20-year career, I can’t tell you how many men I have treated and often times with good outcomes because they didn’t wait.”
“This is a curable disease and I think that we all have to help each other out getting a diagnosis so that this can be cured,” Gudena said.
And that sentiment goes beyond just breast cancer. If you ever have any questions or concerns about your health don’t be afraid to bring them up to your doctor.