HARTFORD -- October is Breast Cancer awareness month and with most of the attention on women, doctors remind people that it can occur in men as well.
The rates of male breast cancer have increased over time. Many of the symptoms are the same -- a lump, bloody nipple discharge, skin changes, etc.. Men, however, don't get mammograms, so the fact that women get screened means that they often pick up their breast cancers at an earlier stage -- before they ever have symptoms.
Men who carry a BRCA2 gene mutation are the most susceptible -- however, just as in women, any man could get breast cancer; family history certainly increases risk.
Treatment is similar between men and women; however, while many women will opt for breast conservation or mastectomy with reconstruction, most men will opt simply for a conventional mastectomy (without reconstruction) since they generally are flat chested. Decisions with regards to drug therapy with chemotherapy and/or hormone blocking agents are similar between men and women.
It's important for men to ask about and participate in clinical trials, however, so that we know that the data obtained from breast cancer trials in women can be extrapolated to men.
Dr. Anees Chagpar; Assoc. Professor of Surgical Oncology, Director of The Breast Cancer Center At Smilow Cancer Hospital