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Male Breast Cancer  

Many people think that breast cancer is only limited to women.  This is not true as it can affect men as well although its incidence is much lower.  However we should discuss one type called male breast cancer to be aware of some further details, symptoms and treatments. 

As it turns out, men do have a small amount of breast tissue which is not capable of producing milk.  The tissue is located directly behind the nipple.  Since breast cancer is caused by cancerous cells originating in breast tissue, this is where male breast cancer begins. 

Male breast cancer is a fairly rare condition and accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers types.  It was estimated by the American Cancer Society that around 1,970 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 2010 with this type of cancer causing about 390 deaths in 2010.  In comparison, about 40,000 women die from breast cancer each year. 

Male breast cancer can appear at any age although it is more common to occur in men between 60 and 70.  The lifetime risk of a man developing this kind of cancer is about 1 in 1,000. 

There are several factors which can influence the incidence of male breast cancer.  Exposure to radiation from radiation therapy can increase the risk of developing this disease.  And normally men have a low level of estrogen but if this level increases, it can create a situation where there is greater risk of developing breast cancer.  Men who abuse alcohol and eventually develop cirrhosis can be at greater risk for developing this disease as well.  And the incidence of male breast cancer tends to be higher if close family member have had the disease. 

There are a number of important symptoms to be aware of in regard to male breast cancer.  The most common symptom of the disease is a firm mass located just below the nipple.  It is generally not painful and there are often no other symptoms.  As the cancer develops, it may change the skin color and texture in the area of the nipple.  A bloody or opaque discharge from the nipple may occur.  The cancer almost always strikes one side or the other. 

If the cancer has spread beyond the breast, there may be bone pain in the area it has spread to.  And further advancement can result in symptoms common to many other cancers including weakness and fatigue. 

The most common way to diagnose the presence of male breast cancer is by taking a biopsy of the affected tissue.  There are several ways to take a biopsy which may include a needle biopsy or incisional biopsy.  Imaging techniques may be used after an initial diagnosis is made. 

The treat of treatment used for this disease depends largely on how advanced the cancer is as well as the overall health of the patient.  But treatment normally starts with surgery to remove the cancerous tissue.  In some cases portions of the axillary lymph nodes will be removed as well as portions of the muscles of the chest wall. 

Following surgery other therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be used to help ensure that all remaining cancer cells in the area are destroyed.