Other than skin cancer, breast is the most diagnosed cancer among American women with more than 276,000 cases expected in 2020, according to breastcancer.org. And while it’s relatively uncommon, roughly 2,600 men will also be diagnosed with the disease.
“Men’s breast and nipple changes should not be ignored, as they might be a sign of cancer,” said Kathryn Ruddy, M.D., a breast oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Ruddy explained in an email that most commonly, male breast cancer presents as a change in the appearance of the nipple or a lump in the breast tissue, often near the nipple.
Other possible symptoms include unusual signs like swelling or leaking fluid and changes to the skin around the breast area.
Though men of every age can develop breast cancer, the average age of those diagnosed with the disease is between 60 and 70 and risk factors include liver disease, radiation exposure to the chest area and the use of certain hormonal medications.
Men with Kleinfelter Syndrome, a rare genetic condition, have a 20-fold increased risk of developing the disease over other men, Ruddy said.
And much like with women, there appears to be a significant connection to family history with breast cancer being diagnosed at higher rates in men with female relatives who have experienced the disease.
Unlike their female counterparts, men probably don’t need to do breast exams unless they fall into one of the high-risk groups, Ruddy said.
“The risk of male breast cancer is very low in most men, so we do not recommend routine breast examination for everyone.
“However, men with a significant family history (particularly those who know that they carry a genetic mutation that puts them at higher risk of the disease, such as BRCA2) may wish to pay more attention to their breast tissue,” Ruddy said.
“A man should call his primary care doctor for an exam and possibly imaging and biopsy if he discovers a lump in his breast tissue,” she said.
The good news is that with early detection, current medical care can be very effective in treating men diagnosed with the disease. Talking to your doctor about breast cancer or any other concerns you may have can help ensure that you’re not behind on commonly missed symptoms of dangerous diseases.