Breast Cancer Is NOT Just a Woman’s Thing, Men Get It Too
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Male breast cancer (male breast neoplasm) is a rare cancer in males that originates from the breast. Many males with breast cancer have inherited a BRCA mutation, but there are other causes, including alcohol abuse and exposure to certain hormones and ionizing radiation. The last five years have seen a tremendous spike in breast cancer in transgenders, the incidence has increased by 26% in men since 1975.
Admittedly, breast cancer in men is rare. A man’s lifetime risk of the disease is 1 in 1,000, while a woman’s is 1 in 8. But according to a 2012 study that assessed more than 13,000 male breast cancers from the US National Cancer Data Base, men with breast cancer are less likely to survive the disease than women. The researchers found that at diagnosis, men were likely to have much larger breast tumors, and the cancer was more likely to have already spread to other areas of the body.
Until puberty, both young girls and boys have small amounts of breast tissue consisting of lobules (glands than can produce milk), ducts (small tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple) and stroma (fatty and connective tissue).When girls reach puberty, high levels of the female hormone estrogen cause substantial growth in lobules, ducts and stroma, producing full breasts. Because boys and men have low levels of estrogen, they are very unlikely to form fully grown breasts.
However, what breast tissue a man has still contains ducts, and cells in these ducts – like all cells in the body – can become cancerous. The cancerous cells can then enter the lymphatic vessels of the breast and grow in the lymph nodes situated above and below the collarbone and under the breast bone. Once in the lymph nodes, it is likely the cancer cells have entered the bloodstream and spread to other areas of the body. Although most male breast cancer cases begin in the ducts – known as ductal carcinoma – it can also develop in the breast lobules (lobular carcinoma), but this only accounts for around 2% of all male breast cancers.
1 in 1000 men can get breast cancer. It’s no longer just a woman’s disease, but there is so much ignorance around it that men get detected very late and their chances of survival dip. The average age of breast cancer in men is around 68 years, those who inherit the BRCA1 & 2 genes have a higher risk. In comparison to the female breast cancer, the male breast cancer presents differently but we don’t have tailored made treatment plans because the research around male breast cancer is zero.
The National Cancer Institute in the US gets a whopping $600 million for annual breast cancer research but only 0.05% of it is diverted to male research.
Breast cancer is no more a woman’s thing, just like being a doctor or an engineer is no longer a man thing.
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