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Breast Cancer In Men: Signs and Symptoms

Contributed by: Rachna Arya

Although breast cancer is often thought of as a condition that is far more prevalent among women, it can occur in males too. The percentage of breast cancer in men, however, is less frequent, making up around 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses. Clinical evidence suggests that the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is just 1 in 1,000 cases of the disease. 

The major problem is that breast cancer in men often tends to get a later diagnosis as compared to breast cancer in women. This is because most male breast cancers are only detected when a man complains of symptoms like bleeding or soreness or a lump in his nipples. However, by that time, cancer may have already spread to other parts of the body. Moreover, men usually procrastinate going to the doctor. They are also usually less familiar with its signs and symptoms, so it becomes more difficult to spot a problem until it’s in a later, more advanced stage.

In this blog, we will learn about the signs of breast cancer in males.  Knowing what these changes look and feel like can help people get an early diagnosis and improve their chances of survival. 

The signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men are largely identical to that in women. Like those in women, any changes in their breasts, including lumps in the chest or underarm area—or changes to the nipple—could be a sign of breast cancer and should be checked out by a doctor.

The tell-tale signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men include:

Breast lump

The main symptom of breast cancer in men may be indicated by a painless lump, or mass, that may grow in the breast, behind the nipple or in the armpit. Breast cancer lumps can also vary in size and shape, but they are typically hard and do not move around in the breast tissue. If a mass is discovered in only one breast, it is more likely to be cancer. However, the disease can manifest itself in both breasts. Any unusual lump in the breast should be checked out by a doctor.

Change in the appearance of nipples

It is not typical for the nipples to undergo specific changes in their shape and feel. The breast tissue may look larger, lopsided, puckered, misshapen or sunken. 

Changes in the skin

The skin of the breasts or nipples, or the surrounding area may look red, scaly, dry, or patchy. There may be a dimpling or several small pits, resembling the uneven skin of an orange. 

Pain

While breast cancer can cause pain, most people notice a mass that does not. There may be pain, tenderness, sensitivity or itching in or around the breast tissue. 

Liquid discharge from the nipples

Clear fluid or liquid streaked with blood leaking from one or both nipples is a rare symptom in men, but it may herald an underlying malignancy. It can be another indicative sign of breast cancer in men and calls for a check-up by a healthcare provider.

Changes in the lymph nodes

Breast cancer that has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes may also cause lymph nodes in the armpits, collarbone, or neck to swell. Painful or tender lymph nodes are another potential sign of breast cancer.

There is a clear imbalance in the way we look at breast cancer in men. Apart from the fact that there is very limited information on how to treat men diagnosed with the disease, it has also been observed that most men find it embarrassing to discuss their breasts with a doctor. 

But given the increasing incidence and prevalence of male breast cancer over the last few years, it is important to create awareness to improve the survival rates of men. 

Diagnostic tests that primarily screen for cancer include ultrasound scans, mammograms and a biopsy.

In addition to all, it is always better to opt for routine health tests and cancer screening tests or genetic testing to know about your health conditions in advance. 

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