BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH: Men have breasts too
October is marked as a Breast Awareness Month to help increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection, treatment and palliative care of this condition.
Breast cancer is the malignant proliferation of epithelial cells lining the ducts or lobules of the breast. In the year 2012, breast cancer has the highest incidence rate and it has overtaken lung cancer as the most prevalent form of cancer in the Philippines. It is the most common cancer of women on both developed and developing countries women. Breast cancer has rare occurrence in male but yes! it can happen. But only less than 1% of all breast cancer develops in males.
Here are some risk factors:
- Aging men. Mostly, men with breast cancer are about 68 years when they are diagnosed. There is a relative increase of estrogen due to decrease in testosterone.
- Has the family history of breast cancer, especially breast cancer that is related to BRCA 2 gene.
- Heavy alcohol drinkers. Liver plays an essential role in sex hormone metabolism and once liver is affected due to binge drinking, it also affects the hormone's activity. Men with sever liver disease has relatively low levels of androgens and higher estrogen levels.
- Obesity. The fat cells can be a source of estrogen production. It also converts the androgens which are the male hormones into estrogen, thus increases the risk.
- Drugs that are estrogen agonists: steroids, estrogen ; marijuana, amphetamines
How high levels of estrogen increases risk on Breast Cancer
Basically, estrogen is a sex hormone that is dominant in females but also present in the males in low levels. It has be known to be the responsible of the formation of female secondary characteristics, stimulate endometrial growth and increase uterine growth. In males, it is important in the maturation of sperms.
Studies and research are still ongoing on how the estrogen directly causes breast cancer. However, according to my readings the National Toxicology Program (US) declared that hormone estrogen is also a known human carcinogen. Estrogen promotes cancer by signaling cells to grow and divide. So once this signal reaches the cells with genetic mutation (BRCA 2 gene), it triggers them to multiply out of control and form into cancerous tumors. Another theory is that once estrogen is metabolized in the body, it produces free radicals that can cause damage to DNA which can likely to cause cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
It is more likely the same as to the women but usually it presents as a painless unilateral lump or swelling in the breast. Here are some that you need to watch for:
- Skin dimpling
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge
THE MALE BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR
Even though it is a most common for in women, men should be aware that they still have a less than 1% risk on having breast cancer.
Robert Kaitz with his surgery scar.
Do you know Robert Kaitz? He is a male breast cancer survivor who first thought that the lump on his left nipple for two years was just a harmless cyst. On October 2006, he sought consult not because of the lump but because of his sore throat and when he mentioned that he has cyst on his breast, his doctor immediately had him mammogram, sonogram and fine needle biopsy. It was confirmed that he has breast cancer. It was also found out that he had a BRCA genetic mutation which he may have gotten from his mother, who is also a breast cancer survivor. He got the same treatment as women like mastectomy and the hormonal therapy and every years he gets a mammogram. According to him, men are not immune as we all have the same plumbing.