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MALE BREAST CANCER

It’s a common misconception that men can’t get breast cancer, however just under 1% of all breast cancers will occur in men. Professor of Breast Cancer Research Professor Rik Thompson explains how breast cancer occurs and is treated in men.

Breast Cancer In Men

It’s a common misconception that men can’t get breast cancer, however just under 1% of all breast cancers will occur in men.

This misconception possibly comes from the idea that men don’t have breasts therefore they can’t get breast cancer.

However, men still do have breast tissue, mostly located behind the nipple – albeit at much smaller amounts than women.

Symptoms Of Male Breast Cancer

The most common breast cancer found in men is invasive ductal carcinoma. This typically presents as a lump, however there are other symptoms that men should be aware of.

Professor of Breast Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Trials Board Member Rik Thompson said more males have breast tissue than we assume.
“About 60% of males have some breast tissue.”

“So as a neonate (newborn) 60% of males still have some estrogen and so there’s still some breast tissue there. It drops off after adolescence because males start making enough testosterone to combat that bit of estrogen that’s keeping it going” he said.

“But as we age again, we start to get more breast tissue as well”

Professor Thompson said there are a number of breast changes that men should be on the lookout for.

“Normal male breast tissue moves around, whereas breast cancer tends to be a firmer lumpier thing, you might have some tissue distortion, may have some skin distortion, you may have nipple distortion.”

“It’s probably an asymmetry that would also be a bit of a red flag.”

“If it feels different on one side than on the other, and pain also, it can be painful.”

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It’s a common misconception that men can’t get breast cancer, however just under 1% of all breast cancers will occur in men. Professor of Breast Cancer Research and a Breast Cancer Trials Board Member Professor Rik Thompson explains how breast cancer occurs and is treated in men.

Research Difficulties for Male Breast Cancer

Professor Thompson said as male breast cancers account for less than 1% of all breast cancers, it is harder to study.

“There’s a lot of anecdotal retrospective trials and because of that, by treating it in the same way that we would treat women for female breast cancer, I think we’ve established the practice around male breast cancer.”

“Generally, the indications are, it’s very much the same disease as in women.”

“All male breast cancer is ER positive or the absolute majority. And so all male breast cancer is offered tamoxifen, whereas only women’s breast cancers with estrogen receptor positivity have tamoxifen, so that’s one difference. But all of the other surgical excision is par for course, as it is with women most of the time.”

He said however, it is more common for male breast cancer to be diagnosed at a later stage.

“Unfortunately, because it’s not something we’re all looking out for, and we may be a bit stigmatised about it, but I think it’s really that we’re thinking ‘well how can I have breast cancer, I don’t have breasts.’”

“But there is a little bit of breast tissue there, and so, it is detected late” he said.

“It’s not something we’re screening for.”

“We’re not having the mammography screening, probably not having the self-exam and so it is a bit more aggressive in males, because its detected late it is more advanced and so, the disease progression characteristics are bit more advanced.”

“I think it’s like the classic men’s tunnel vision around prostate cancer just worse. Men might expect that they’ve got a prostate, not all would, but they just don’t think that we’ve got breasts.”

While breast cancer is uncommon in men, it’s important for men who find a change in their breasts to see their doctor without delay.

As with female breast cancer, early detection and treatment are the best way to survive the disease.

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Professor Rik Thompson

Professor Rik Thompson is the Associate Director and a Professor of Breast Cancer Research at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and School of Biomedical Science at Queensland’s University of Technology.

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