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Men not immune to breast cancer

Though rare for males, older et at greater risk for disease

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Diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in women is frequently in the news. But, men can develop breast cancer too, although the risk is much lower than in women.

The older a man is, the higher the risk of developing breast cancer, doctors said.

Amy Lang, an oncologist with the START Center for Cancer Care in San Antonio, completed medical school at UT Health San Antonio and has worked with male breast-cancer patients.

“I’ve treated many cases of breast cancer in men. They are usually in their 70s or 80s. And, they tend to do really well,” she said.

To help reduce breast-cancer risks, Lang recommends healthy diet choices and exercise. Both can be key in mitigating the chances of developing breast and other cancers, she said.

According to epidemiologist Anil Mangla, “Breast cancer in men is a rare disease. It occurs at less than 1 percent of all breast cancers. We’re talking about 1 in 1,000 men who will develop breast cancer.”

Mangla is an associate professor of biomedical sciences and the director of Public Health and Research at the University of the Incarnate Word-School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“In 2019, we are expected to diagnose 2,670 cases nationally, out of which 480 will die of breast cancer,” he added. In Texas during 2018, an estimated 160 cases arose with more than 30 deaths.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with health care officials stressing both genders should be vigilant about body changes.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. website, “All people, whether male or female, are born with some breast cells and tissue. Even though males do not develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. … Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola.”

Medical professionals also said men tend to be more hesitant to ask their doctor about breast cancer.

Pippa Maisie, who writes for HISbreastcancer.org, said, “Male breast cancer is unlike other cancers in that it carries a stigma for many who are diagnosed with it. A big reason for this is that breast cancer is seen as a female disease and this can lead to the feeling of shame for men who have it. It is also true that there is a lot less support for men with breast cancer than there is for women, leading to many men feeling isolated.”

Experts like Virginia Kaklamani, a world-renowned oncologist at UT Health San Antonio, said heredity could be significant.

“As with women, the risk is greater if a man has a genetic link, such as a mutation on the BRCA1 (breast cancer type one) or BRCA2 genes,” the physician said. “We usually treat breast cancer in men like we treat female breast cancer.”

The breast-cancer foundation explains: “BRCA genes do not cause breast cancer. In fact, these genes normally play a big role in preventing breast cancer. They help repair DNA breaks that can lead to cancer and the uncontrolled growth of tumors. Because of this, the BRCA genes are known as tumor suppressor genes.”

According to Facingourrisk.org, “A change in one of the protective genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 leads to a very high risk for cancer in women. Men can also inherit a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation and an increased risk for certain cancers. Men with BRCA mutations have a higher than average lifetime risk for breast cancer, prostate cancer and other cancers.”

So, should males perform breast self-examinations?

“No, self-exams are not indicated in men or women,” Kaklamani said. “We have not found we can diagnose breast cancer any better with self-exams. But, if men (or women) notice something in their breasts, they should not ignore it.”

Males ought to contact a doctor, because it might be serious.

“These days, the majority of breast cancers are cured in men and women,” Kaklamani said.

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