NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – October is breast cancer awareness month –but did you know that men can get breast cancer too?
Dr. Andrea Silber with Yale Cancer Center says it’s not as uncommon as you may think. About 1 percent of all breast cancer occurs in men. She says many present with late stage cancer.
She says, “I think if there were more awareness, they would be aware of the symptoms and they would get it investigated early.”
What are the symptoms of male breast cancer?
“Men do not have large breasts,” says Dr. Silber, “But men can have breast tissue and things like any discharge or bleeding from a nipple. If a nipple looks irregular, scaly, red and different. There’s something called retraction, in other words, the breast is kind of pulled up, looks asymetrical and different. Those are all signs of breast cancer.”
What should men do if there’s a family history of breast cancer?
“It’s not common enough that you do screening like you do with a woman with a mammogram. There’s something called surveillance for people high risk. People that have a mutation that’s known about in their family, they should get surveillance. In addition to exams, they may get some radio-graphic studies either mammograms or MRI’s just like women who are at increased risk of breast cancer,” says Dr. Silber.
Is family history the biggest risk factor?
She answers, “It is the biggest risk but it can happen without risk factors. And when you talk about family history, remember it’s not just what your Dad had, it can be your Dad, it can be your Mom and with BRCA mutations, BRCA2 mutations are most associated with male breast cancer.”
Treatment for men with breast cancer?
“It could be surgery,” she responds, “And surgery with men is more likely to be mastectomy than it is in women. Just because of the small amount of breast tissue. They can get radiation as well. There’s endocrine therapy which is the hormonal therapy that women take and there’s also experimental therapy and chemotherapy.”
And this question from co-worker Fabio from Newington — What type of doctor should men see if they are concerned?
Dr. Silber says, “A breast surgeon can be very helpful. You want someone who is experienced with breast cancer. You can start out with a primary care doctor but if you don’t get the response that you expect, then I would move onto a surgeon.”
There are other risk factors for male breast cancer. Dr. Silber says radiation for previous tumors, being African-American, obesity, aging and men who need to take hormones are also at higher risk.
She highly recommends that men advocate for themselves and participate in the breast cancer clinical trials that women can.
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