Male Breast Cancer

Although rare, male breast cancer does occur -- usually in men between the ages of 60 and 70. Risk factors for this type of cancer include exposure to radiation, having a disease related to high levels of estrogen in the body (such as cirrhosis), and a family history of breast cancer in female relatives. Unfortunately, most cases of breast cancer in men are diagnosed at a later stage than most cases of breast cancer in women.

What Is Male Breast Cancer?

Male breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.
Men at any age may develop breast cancer, but it is usually found in men between 60 and 70 years of age.
Male breast cancer makes up less than 1 percent of all cases of breast cancer. There were an estimated 1,690 new cases and 460 deaths from male breast cancer in the United States in 2005.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Risk factors for male breast cancer include the following:
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Having a disease related to high levels of estrogen in the body, such as cirrhosis (liver disease) or Klinefelter syndrome (a genetic disorder)
  • Having several female relatives who have had breast cancer, especially relatives who have an alteration of the BRCA2 gene.

Causes of Male Breast Cancer

Male breast cancer is sometimes caused by inherited gene mutations. Most often, however, the cause of male breast cancer is not known.

Making a Diagnosis

A doctor should be seen if changes in the breasts are noticed. Typically, men with breast cancer have lumps that can be felt.
A biopsy can be done to check for male breast cancer. The following are different types of biopsies:
  • Needle biopsy: The removal of part of a lump, suspicious tissue, or fluid using a thin needle. This procedure is also called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.
  • Core biopsy: The removal of part of a lump or suspicious tissue using a wider needle.
  • Excisional biopsy: The removal of an entire lump or suspicious tissue.
After the tissue or fluid has been removed, a pathologist (someone who studies diseases) views it under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
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Men and Breast Cancer

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