Whilst breast cancer in men is fairly rare, they can still get the disease. This is because men have a small amount of breast tissue behind the nipple and areola, and breast cancer can develop there. Male breast cancer treatment and diagnosis, therefore, can be difficult.
Most people associate breast cancer as a predominantly women’s cancer, as there are a lot more cases of breast cancer in women each year. But around 370-390 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK. Whilst this is only 1% of the diagnoses in the UK per year, it is still something to be aware of. Most men who get breast cancer are over 60, but young men can develop breast cancer too.
Types of Breast Cancer
According to Macmillan, most breast cancers in men are invasive, meaning that they have spread beyond the lining of the ducts of the breast, and into the surrounding breast tissue. It may have also spread to other parts of the body.
There are two types of breast cancer in men. These are:
- No Special Type: this is the most common type of breast cancer in men, with around 70-90% suffering from this type. It is where the breast cancer cells have no specific features.
- Special Type: this is where the breast cancer cells have specific features that identify them as a specific type of breast cancer. The types include tubular, cribriform, medullary and mucinous.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) is the earliest sign of breast cancer. In this sign, there are cancer cells present in the breast ducts, but they are contained (in situ). The cancer cells at this point have not yet spread into the breast tissue. It is much less common in men than women, with around 10% of men suffering with DCIS. There are other types of breast cancer that men can also suffer from, including Paget’s disease and inflammatory breast cancer, however, these are very rare.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men
The most common symptom of breast cancer in men, as with women, is a lump in the chest area. This lump can often be painless and may also affect the nipple or skin. Most lumps are not cancerous, they are usually other conditions such as fatty lumps, cysts or enlarged tissue. It is always best to go and see your GP if you do notice a lump.
There are other symptoms that can also be linked to breast cancer. Other symptoms can include:
- The nipple inverting
- Fluid from the nipple
- Rashes that do not go away
- Small lumps or swollen glands in the armpit
- The nipple or surrounding skin becoming red or swollen.
There are other symptoms that can arise if cancer spreads beyond the breast tissue. Indeed, this can happen if the cancer is not detected early on. The earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and cure.
Male Breast Cancer Causes
The exact cause of breast cancer in men is not known, but there are a few aspects that can increase the risk of breast cancer. These include age (men over 60 are more at risk of developing breast cancer), higher oestrogen levels (which can occur because of liver damage, obesity, and genetic conditions).
Also, previous radiation to the chest, and family history of breast cancer in either men or women.
Another cause of breast cancer in men is Klinefelter syndrome. This is when men are born with an extra X chromosome. This syndrome carries a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer, though it is rare, and most men who have the syndrome live normal, healthy lives.
Because breast cancer in men is rare, most men who have these risk factors will not develop breast cancer.
There are various methods that can diagnose breast cancer. A breast ultrasound is the main method that Doctors use to diagnose male breast cancer. It works by using sound waves to build a picture of the breast. Ultrasound scans can also be done on the lymph nodes in the armpit.
Mammograms and breast biopsies are also used to diagnose breast cancer. If any abnormalities show on the lymph nodes in an ultrasound then they may also be sent for biopsy. In a biopsy, a Doctor will remove a small piece of tissue or a sample of cells from a lump and send them to be tested.
After these primary tests, you may have to have further tests if there are any abnormalities. These can include:
- Blood tests
- Chest X-ray
- MRI scan
- Bone scan
- CT scan
- Liver ultrasound
They will then give the breast cancer a stage or grade. This indicates how far the breast cancer has advanced or spread. It will also be an indicator of the type of treatment that you may need.
Male Breast Cancer Treatment
If you have breast cancer, there are various forms of treatment you may have to have. The main types of male breast cancer treatment include a mastectomy (full removal of the breast tissue and often the nipple), chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, and medicines to stop cancer growth. Most men have surgery followed by one of the other forms of treatment, to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
After surgery or radiotherapy to the lymph nodes in the armpit, some men develop Lymphodema. This is a swelling of the arm or hand. There is no cure for Lymphodema, but it is usually manageable. It can develop months or years after treatment. If you develop this after the treatment, then it is best to speak to a doctor or nurse about it.
Breast cancer treatment can also have an effect on your sex life and fertility. Some men experience a change in, or loss of, libido, or erection problems (erectile dysfunction). It often improves after treatment but may last longer. If you experience any problems, speak to your Doctor or Nurse, who will be able to help.
Male Breast Cancer Negligence
Due to the rarity of breast cancer in men, it can often be misdiagnosed. There can also be delays in the diagnosis. The main causes of delays or misdiagnoses are human error. If a doctor diagnoses you with something else due to not being aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, for example, or cases in younger men, then it can mean that the cancer develops and spreads without you knowing. This can have a devastating effect on you and your loved ones.
There can also be delays in male breast cancer treatment for various reasons. These can also have a devastating effect on your prognosis. Misdiagnosis and treatment delays can be as big a problem for men as it is for women and can be just as dangerous. If this has happened to you, and it has made your cancer worse, then we may be able to help you claim compensation.
How we can help
Here at The Medical Negligence Experts, we work with solicitors who deal with cancer negligence claims every day. This includes cases involving breast cancer in men. They are well placed to help you to get the compensation you may be entitled to. Contact us today by filling in our contact form, or by calling us on 0808 501 6429 to speak to one of our friendly knowledgeable advisors.