Yes, men can get breast cancer.
Wait, don’t go; there’s more.
It may seem like only women have breasts, and the incidence of breast cancer is certainly much higher in females, but everyone has breast tissue.
“Though boys and girls begin life with similar breast tissue, over time, men do not have the same complex breast growth and development as women,” according to Susan G. Komen. “At puberty, high testosterone and low estrogen levels stop breast development in males.”
Additionally, some males have large breasts, which is normal. They may either go away on their own or may be due to a treatable medical issue.
Regardless of breast size, any man can get breast cancer. Fortunately, there is a lot of information about breast cancer. Unfortunately, many men ignore it, and that is why men who have breast cancer tend to discover it in a later stage, making it more difficult to cure.
That’s why it’s important for men to look for breast cancer themselves with self-exams and, if they find anything suspicious, to make an appointment with a doctor to have it checked.
The idea isn’t to scare anyone. After all, men are still 100 times less likely to get breast cancer than women. However, because cancer is so much easier to fight when it is caught early, and breast cancer can often be caught with a simple exam, it makes checking yourself for lumps a no-brainer.
Here’s how to do it:
- First, look for any changes in each breast’s size, shape and contour, which could look like puckering, dimpling or changes in texture. Take a photo on your phone from month to month for an easy comparison.
- Then, firmly place your fingers flat against one breast at a time and move it in circles as you feel for hard lumps or bumps.
- Finally, gently squeeze each nipple and look for discharge.
If you notice hard lumps, pain, nipple retraction, redness or discharge, make an appointment with your doctor. Those symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer but early diagnosis is important.
Make it a 2-for-1 by pairing the self-exam with your monthly check for testicular cancer (not doing that either? Well, get started.) And, if you really want to protect yourself, you should be checking for skin cancer at the same time. It sounds like a lot, but all together, the self-exams will take you a couple minutes and could save your life.
If you’re still not convinced, consider whether you have any risk factors:
- Growing older, as risk increases with age
- High estrogen levels from taking hormonal medicines, being overweight, drinking alcohol heavily, having liver disease, or being exposed to estrogen from sources such as pesticides and beef cattle who are fed hormones
- Klinefelter syndrome, with symptoms that include having longer legs, a higher voice, a thinner beard and smaller testicles than average and being infertile
- A family history of breast cancer, although the majority of male breast cancers happen in men who have no family history nor inherited gene abnormality
- Radiation exposure from, for example, lymphoma treatment on the chest
There is continual research on the causes of male breast cancer and what you can do to prevent it. For example, being overweight is a risk factor for breast cancer in women, and studies are looking at the effects of exercise, weight gain and diet on the risk of breast cancer in men.
Other studies are examining how genetic testing can be used, especially because men with mutations in the genes linked to breast cancer are more likely to develop prostate cancer, stomach cancer, pancreas cancer and melanoma according to the American Cancer Society.
The more men who understand the importance of checking for breast cancer in themselves, the better, so perform your monthly self-exam, and tell your friends and social media followers to do the same. Skip the unnecessary embarrassment, and help normalize the importance of fighting male breast cancer.
Sinclair Broadcasting is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we’re introducing Sinclair Cares. Every month we’ll bring you information about the “Cause of the Month,” including topical information, education, awareness and prevention.