Breast cancer symptoms in men
Breast cancer is the most frequent tumor in Spanish women and it is estimated that it affects one in 8 women. However, although to a lesser extent, it is also a tumor that can affect men. Of all cases, males suffer around 1%.
Breast cancer symptoms in men
Breast cancer is the most frequent tumor in Spanish women and it is estimated that it affects one in 8 women. However, although to a lesser extent, it is also a tumor that can affect men. Of all cases, males suffer around 1%. This figure, although it may seem small, translates into about 300 men a year affected by breast cancer. According to data from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), it is estimated that 32,953 new cases of this type of cancer will occur in Spain.
Breast cancer is identified as a female cancer, so many men are not aware that they too can develop it. The same goes for research, which focuses solely on women. That is why the Geicam Breast Cancer Research Group and the Male Breast Cancer Association (INVI) have come together to make this disease known to the population.
What are the symptoms that can warn of the appearance of breast cancer in men? Noelia Martínez, a medical oncologist at Geicam, explains to CuídatePlus that it is important to go to a family doctor or a breast pathology unit in the event of:
- A painless lump in the breast.
- Gynecomastia (breast growth).
- Nipple or skin retraction
- Nipple discharge.
“We often find ourselves with large tumors or later diagnoses because they are embarrassed to consult”, since they are not aware that they may have breast cancer and attribute the symptoms to the appearance of a lump of fat. However, Màrius Soler, president of INVI, explains that “men are not aware that they have breasts, until puberty. They do not develop but they have them just like the nipple, ducts and mammary gland”. Perhaps that is why 80% of cases of breast cancer in men are detected in advanced stages and when there is already involvement of the lymph nodes in the armpit.
For this reason, raising awareness among men of the existence of cancer is essential for the diagnosis to be made more quickly and to be able to prevent it. “Men should perform a small self-examination of the breasts at a certain age to see if there is any alteration.”
The average age of onset is very similar to that of women, and is around 50 and 60 years old and without any special risk factor. For this reason, Martínez recalls the need to carry out genetic studies. “Whenever a man is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is mandatory to carry out a genetic study to determine if there is a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA 2 or in other genes. This analysis must be carried out on all members of the family, whether they are men or women, because the mutation is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner and that means that it can appear in 50% of the descendants or ascendants”, says Martínez.
The same happens in the case of women with breast or ovarian cancer or with suspicion and/or confirmation of a hereditary genetic syndrome, it is essential to carry out the genetic study of their relatives.
To increase knowledge about this cancer, Geicam has launched a study that will analyze up to 1,000 samples of breast cancer in men taken between 2000 and 2017 to analyze their genomic profile and obtain data of interest to better understand how it affects the breast cancer in men.
Since there is so little knowledge about the disease, the treatment and course of men is taken from data on women. In principle, the treatment is surgical, as in women, although after mastectomy, as the breasts are smaller, conservative surgery is not performed. “We try to preserve the lymphatic chain by performing a selective biopsy of the sentinel node and if it is affected, it is removed.” In the case of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it is used in the same way as in women.
Mastectomy generally does not produce any psychological sequelae in men. What can cause more problems “is the chemotherapy treatment or hormonal treatments, which produces an abolition of hormones, with a consequent loss of libido.”
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