Male Breast Cancer: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Supportive Care
Ramakant was 62 when he first realized that something was wrong with his right breast. He noticed some inflammation in his nipple and some fluid discharge. It was only when he noticed blood in the discharge that he reached out to a doctor. The doctor diagnosed him as a breast cancer patient. Ramakant always had a chubby right breast. He also experienced thickening of the breast tissue over time. But never in his wildest dreams did he think it can be a symptom of breast cancer. It took Ramakant a few months to come to terms with his diagnosis and start curative treatment. During these months, Ramakant experienced a myriad of emotions – disbelief, shame, loneliness. He was ashamed to talk about his condition or seek support. The delay in diagnosing the condition and initiating treatment, just made things more difficult for Ramakant. He developed complications that could have been avoided if the cancer was treated during the early stage. Ramakant’s story is eerily similar to other men who are diagnosed with breast cancer in India.
Breast cancer as an illness is mostly associated with women. However, it can affect men also. Although the relative percentage of incidence is low, a study published in JAMA Oncology shows that the mortality rate in men breast cancer is 19% higher than in women. There is a serious lack of awareness around male breast cancer that is leading to late diagnosis of the disease which makes it more fatal. There is also stigma associated with male breast cancer which prevents people from having meaningful dialogues around it.
Male Breast Cancer: Factors That Lead to This Cancer
Breast cancer usually develops when certain cells start growing faster than the others. These cells accumulate and form a tumor that can become cancerous. Since men are born with a small amount of breast tissue, they are susceptible to breast cancer. Here are some factors that are usually associated with male breast cancer.
Age: Male breast cancer is more commonly detected in men in their 60s.
Estrogen: Men undergoing hormone therapy for prostate cancer medication have higher exposure to estrogen which increases the risk of breast cancer. Estrogen levels are also higher in men suffering from Klinefelter's syndrome or cirrhosis of the liver. This also makes them more susceptible to breast cancer.
Genetic History: Men who have a family history of male breast cancer are more at risk.
Obesity: Obese men are known to have higher estrogen levels which add to the breast cancer risk.
Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer
One of the reasons for higher mortality rates in male breast cancer is delayed diagnosis. The lack of awareness leads to men seeking medical help quite late which affects the survival rate. Hence, it’s important to know about the symptoms of male breast cancer and when to seek medical help. Men should watch out for following symptoms to self-detect cancer possibility:
Formation of a painless lump under the nipple
Thickening of the breast tissue
Changes to the skin color of the breast – scaling, redness, puckering, etc
Changes to the nipple – redness, scaling, nipple turning inwards
Ulceration or discharge from the nipple
Inflammation in the breast tissue or nipple
Pain or swelling in the armpit
Severe bone pain
A doctor should be consulted if any of the above listed symptoms are noticed.
Supportive Care for Patients of Breast Cancer
Men will need supportive care as they undergo curative breast cancer treatment. Our clinical team works with such patients to make them comfortable during and after the treatment at home. Here is how we support men breast cancer patients at home:
Our Care Doctor collaborates with the patient’s onco-specialist and extends their follow-up care at home
Our clinical team offers supervised clinical interventions at home to help them deal with symptoms and reduce avoidable hospital visits
We monitor the patient regularly at home to identify any early signs of distress or complications, and keep them on track with their treatment schedule
Our clinical team engages with the patient and the family members to address their unanswered questions, make sense of treatment process, and know what to expect as outcome
We also provide specialist support like pain management specialist, physiotherapist, nutritionist, counselor etc. if needed
As a cancer care provider, we help create an ecosystem that makes sure that the patient is taken care of – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We also help the family caregivers share some of their responsibilities with us and gain some control over their lives. To know more about how we can help cancer patients reach out to us at [email protected] or +91-80-47096828.