Understanding Male Breast Cancer
- Jason Williamson was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer after his wife felt a lump on his chest while they were four-wheeling together.
- It’s a lot less common than breast cancer in women, but men can still get breast cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the United States in 2022.
- Possible symptoms of male breast cancer include: a lump developed in the breast (usually painless) or a thickening in the breast tissue, nipple pain, an inverted nipple, discharge from the nipple which may be clear or bloody, changes to the color or texture of the nipple and areola, changes to the color or texture of skin on the chest an enlarged lymph nodes under the arm.
Jason and his wife Janelle Williamson were four-wheeling in April when Janelle just so happened to feel a lump while grabbing her husband’s chest.Read More
Sadly, Jason is wishing he had gone to the hospital with his symptom sooner.
“They could have killed it with a couple bouts of radiation, and I would have been done with it,” Jason said.
While Jason still has an arduous road ahead of him, he’s still feeding his horses and working to provide for his family of seven.
“I think a whole lot of it is just how strong you are and how mentally strong you are and your mindset,” he said. “I’m the guy who’s going to wake up every morning and post to Facebook with a good morning and a ‘hashtag cancer can’t stop me.”
He’s looking forward to closing this chapter of his life, but Jason is also making sure to share his story to raise awareness for male breast breast.
“I’m ringing that bell off the wall,” he said referring to the bell ringing tradition that marks the end of a cancer warrior’s treatment.
What Is Male Breast Cancer?
The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 833 for men. In addition, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the United States in 2022.
There are several risk factors that can increase a man’s chance of developing the disease, just like in the case of female breast cancer. If you’re a man with any, all or some of the following risk factors, vigilance is key.
Possible Risk Factors for Male Breast Cancer:
- Age. Breast cancer risk increases with age, and most cancers are found in patients over 50. The average age of a man diagnosed with breast cancer is 72.
- Family history. Men with close blood relatives who have had breast cancer are at higher risk for the disease.
- Genetic mutations. Patients may inherit gene defects that make them more susceptible to breast cancer. Men with a mutation in the BRCA2 gene have a 6 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, and men with a mutation in the BRCA1 gene have a 1 percent lifetime risk. These gene mutations are most commonly found in families with strong histories of breast or ovarian cancer, but they have also been found in male breast cancer patients without a family history.
- Klinefelter syndrome. Men with Klinefelter syndrome are born with at least one extra X chromosome which may increase a man’s breast cancer risk by producing high levels of estrogen (a hormone responsible for female sex characteristics) and low levels of androgens (hormones responsible for male sex characteristics). This condition affects about 1 in 1,000 men, and can raise the risk of breast cancer by 20 – 60 times that of the general population.
- Hormone therapy. Men who have been treated with drugs containing estrogen are at a greater breast cancer risk. These drugs were once used to treat prostate cancer, and they are still used in sex reassignment processes.
- Conditions affecting the testicles. Testicle injuries, swelling or removal surgery can increase a man’s risk for the disease by disrupting normal hormone levels.
- Liver disease. Diseases that impede the liver (like cirrhosis) may raise men’s estrogen production and lower their androgen levels, therefore, increasing breast cancer risk.
- Alcohol. Heavy drinking is known to raise the risk of breast cancer (which may be related to alcohol’s effect on the liver).
- Radiation therapy. Men who have received radiation therapy to their chests (for conditions like lymphoma) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Obesity. Fat cells can transform androgens into estrogens, boosting the possibility of an overweight man developing breast cancer.
If any of the above risk factors applies to you, consult your doctor and feel free to ask questions. While it’s true that men can work to lower their breast cancer risk by exercising and maintaining a healthy bodyweight, the most important element of effective cancer treatment is an early diagnosis.
Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer Can Include:
- A lump developed in the breast (usually painless), or a thickening in the breast tissue
- Nipple pain
- An inverted nipple
- Discharge from the nipple, which may be clear or bloody (this was Mathew Knowles’ first
- Changes to the color or texture of the nipple and areola
- Changes to the color or texture of skin on the chest
- Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm
Treatment for female breast cancer is largely the same for male breast cancer. A person’s options depend greatly on a variety of factors, including the size of the tumor and how far the cancer cells have spread, but possibilities include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy.