Men also have breasts and nipples. Admittedly, they are less developed than in women, but they can be affected in the same way by cancer. The breast cancer in men is rare; It accounts for less than 1% of all breast cancers. Of the 40,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in France, about 300 cases concern men every year.
Characteristics and management of breast cancer in humans
Ductal carcinoma: the most common breast cancer in men
Most breast cancers that affect men are infiltrating ductal carcinomas. Other types of breast cancers are more rare.
Breast cancer in humans is generally hormone-sensitive . That is, cancer cells have receptors for estrogen and progesterone. More rarely, breast cancer in humans is HER2 positive.
Medical care similar to that of women
Male, diagnostic and therapeutic breast cancer care is the same as that for a woman.
Human breast cancer, however, will be treated essentially as breast cancer in a postmenopausal woman, that is, when the ovaries no longer produce estrogen.
Is breast cancer in men less severe than in women?
In humans, mammary duct cells are less developed than in women and are not constantly exposed to estrogen and progesterone. The risk of developing breast cancer is therefore less important .
On the other hand, men rarely have the reflex to control, or have their chest checked. They often misunderstand the possibility of breast cancer for humans. Talking about their breasts may even be a taboo subject. Diagnosis is therefore most often performed late and cancer is already at an advanced stage . For this reason, breast cancer more often causes death in men.
Risk factors for breast cancer in humans
As for women, the causes of breast cancer are multifactorial . Some cases of breast cancer in humans are linked to known risk factors. In other cases, none of these factors can be identified.
Known risk factors for breast cancer in humans
The main risk factors are as follows:
- Age : The risk of developing breast cancer for a man increases with age. The majority of diagnoses are in men over 60 years of age .
- Family history : the higher the number of close relatives of breast cancer (male or female), the greater the risk of developing a breast cancer .
- The presence of certain genetic mutations : 15% of breast cancers in humans originate from a genetic mutation of the BRCA2 gene . For the BRCA1 gene, the risk is also increased, but to a lesser extent.
- Klinefelter Syndrome : It is a rare hereditary disease of the X chromosome. Men with this syndrome have at least one additional X chromosome . In men, the level of androgens (male hormones) is low, and the estrogen level is high, exposing them to a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Cirrhosis : this stage is reached when the tissues of the liver are replaced by scar tissue, rendering impossible the functioning of this organ, in particular its action on the hormones. The rate of estrogen will therefore increase and that of androgens decrease , which increases the risk of breast cancer.
- Exposure to radiation : exposure to radiation (for therapeutic purposes, such as radiotherapy) especially in the thorax increases the risk of breast cancer in humans.
Other possible risk factors for breast cancer in humans
There are risk factors whose involvement in breast cancer in humans has not yet been scientifically proven; It remains strongly suspected.
- The Gynecomastia : the exaggerated breast development in humans. Estrogen and androgen levels are abnormal in this case, which can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
- The obesity : as it raises the risk of breast cancer in women, it could also do humans.
- The alcohol : it is an identified risk factor in women, affecting the liver, it could also become the humans.
- The hormone therapy with estrogen: the prostate cancer , men receive treatment for estrogen. The risk of developing breast cancer thereafter is low in comparison to the effectiveness of the treatment.
- The problems in the testicles : cryptorchidism (undescended testicle), orchiectomy (removal of one testicle) or mumps in adulthood could promote breast cancer in humans.
- An occupational exposure : men working in hot environments (steelworks, blast furnaces) may be more susceptible to breast cancer. Heat will affect the testicles and hormone levels. Gasoline vapors and exhaust fumes would also be blamed.
Good to know : physical activity, the fight against obesity, smoking cessation and a limitation of alcohol consumption reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, just like in women.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer in humans?
Several signs and symptoms can alert and should prompt you to consult:
- A hard non-painful mass around or below the nipple (preferred zone in humans);
- Thickening, wrinkling of the skin of the breast or peeling skin;
- Flow from the nipple;
- A small wound, a retraction of the nipple or the areola;
- Swelling or redness at the breast;
- A nodule, a mass or pain in the armpit.
Treatments for breast cancer in humans
Surgery is the first-line treatment . We will talk about:
- Conservative breast surgery;
- Removal of the lymph nodes (technique of the “sentinel node”);
- Ablation of the testicles (in the case of metastatic breast cancer to reduce the production of hormones).
Important : Some men live very well without a breast, for others the scar is embarrassing. The breast reconstruction is quite possible in humans. A graft is made to fill the scar and the areola is redesigned by a tattoo.
Other treatments are possible for men:
- the radiotherapy in addition to surgery , it can destroy the most cancer cells in the tumor bed;
- the hormonal therapy for tumors with hormone receptors. The majority of breast cancers in humans have hormonal receptors;
- the chemotherapy and targeted therapies for advanced stages. The chemotherapy used for men is the same in postmenopausal women with breast cancer.