Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends annual mammography for women 40 years and older, since the incidence of breast cancer in men is low, they aren't routinely screened for the disease. Yet doctors diagnose about 1,900 men in the U.S. with breast cancer each year. Despite breast cancer in males being rare, men age 68 and older tend to get the disease more often than younger men. But like women, it's important to know what symptoms can be signs of trouble at any age.
Since men don't usually get routine mammograms, there are other ways to detect the disease early.
Self-exam. Like women, men who have a strong family history of breast cancer among female relatives – which can increase their own risk of developing the disease—should conduct regular self-breast exams. Unlike women, men can usually feel lumps in their chests more easily.
Genetic testing. The same as for women, if breast cancer runs in the family, men can undergo screening for the BRAC gene—a known risk factor for breast cancer. Because these genes help prevent cancer cells from growing, mutations put you at increased risk.
While female breast cancer is typically associated with family history and hormonal factors, in men the disease generally is related to breast and testicular abnormalities or Klinefelter's syndrome—a genetic abnormality characterized by the presence of one or more extra "X" chromosomes. Infertility, enlarged breast tissue, and small testicles are symptoms of the disorder.
When Doctors Recommend Mammography for Men
Detection of a firm lump in the breast
Nipple discharge, especially if there is blood present
Persistent breast pain
Presence of Klinefelter's syndrome—diagnosed by a physical examination, chromosome test, and semen analysis in adult men
Elevated estrogen levels caused by aging, obesity, alcohol abuse, testicular tumors, and pituitary disease—high levels of estrogen also put a man at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer
Additional Diagnostic Tools
If your doctor suspects breast cancer following a physical examination, in addition to ordering a diagnostic mammogram, he or she may follow up with:
Breast ultrasound to determine if a breast lump is a cyst or a tumor
Examination of nipple discharge to detect the presence of cancer cells; however, you can have breast cancer even if there are no cancerous cells in the discharge
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the size of a breast lump or mass or your doctor suspects the cancer has spread to the chest wall
Biopsy to determine if a breast lump is cancerous by removing and examining a small amount of breast tissue under a microscope
Benign Breast Conditions
Men also can suffer from benign breast conditions such as:
Gynecomastia – a condition that causes breast tissue in males to swell. In severe cases, some doctors prescribe breast cancer drugs to treat the condition. Surgery to remove breast fat is another option.
Fat necrosis – a firm, generally painless, lump. The condition is not cancerous, nor does it increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
In some cases, a breast mass may be due to lymphoma—a cancer that affects the body's immune cells. The disease has similar symptoms in both men and women which include swelling or lumps in the neck and underarms, rapid weight loss, fever, and persistent fatigue. For more information, contact clinics like Women's Care Inc.
When was the last time you went to your OBGYN for an exam? I skipped two of my bi-yearly exams because I didn't feel that they were necessary. When I began experiencing extreme cramping in my lower stomach, I knew that something was wrong. I went to the emergency room and found that I had cervical cancer. Since I skipped those important exams, the cancer had progressed significantly. So, why should you go to your OB when you don't feel sick, uncomfortable or have any health issues? My blog will show you exactly what early detection can do when you have cancer.