I had originally planned to make the piece last week my last on breast cancer for the month of October which is the globally recognized breast cancer awareness month. Then this feedback came in from a man- talk about us too- men also get breast cancer- people need to know so that they will be sympathetic to us when we approach persons or insitutions for assistance.
Currently all the messaging on breast cancer, in the main, focus on women. I believe the person has a point on the issue. I do recall an incident years ago when the Cancer Society of Ghana organized support for persons affected by breast cancer. One person was a male breast cancer patient. I recall the institution sponsoring the event was taken aback because they did not expect a male to be among the beneficiaries.
All persons, 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. Even so, male breast cancer is very rare. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men, and only one in a thousand men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer (National Breast Cancer Foundation).
Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment. The majority of men diagnosed are over the age of 50.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) adds that the most common kinds of breast cancer in men are the same kinds in women—Invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer cells grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.Invasive lobular carcinoma- the cancer cells spread from the lobules to the breast tissues that are close by. These invasive cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)- a breast disease that may lead to breast cancer. The cancer cells are only in the lining of the ducts and have not spread to other tissues in the breast.The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men are— lump or swelling in the breast, redness or flaky skin in the breast, irritation or dimpling of breast skin, nipple discharge, pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
Several factors can increase a man’s chance of getting breast cancer. These include getting older with higher after age 50. Genetic mutations- inherited changes (mutations) in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Family history of breast cancer- a close family member has had breast cancer. Radiation therapy treatment- men who had radiation therapy to the chest. Hormone therapy treatment- medicines containing estrogen (a hormone that helps develop and maintain female sex characteristics), which were used to treat prostate cancer in the past. Klinefelter syndrome – a rare genetic condition in which a male has an extra X chromosome. This can lead to the body making higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens (hormones that help develop and maintain male sex characteristics). Conditions that affect the testicles- injury to, swelling in, or surgery to remove the testicles can increase breast cancer risk. Liver disease- cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver can lower androgen levels and raise estrogen levels in men, increasing the risk of breast cancer. Overweight and obesity- older men who are overweight or have obesity have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than men at a normal weight. Treatment for breast cancer is the same in men as in women. It depends on how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.
At this point let me share the personal story of Matthew Knowles, the father Beyoncé and Solange Knowles. Last year, October 2019, Matthew Knowles revealed on “Good Morning America” that he is been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mathew Knowles said he wanted to shine a light on male breast cancer, and urged other men with the disease to speak out. Matthew, 67 yrs at the time said he first noticed something was wrong when he found blood on his white T-shirt. In his own words “initially I didn’t think it was breast cancer, my mind went a lot of places. My mind went to what medication I was on, because different medications might have caused some sort of discharge … and then I thought, just because of the risk factor, that it could be breast cancer and I would go get a mammogram.”That risk factor was from Matthew Knowles’ past career at Xerox. In 1980 he had worked in the medical division of Xerox for eight years, selling Xeroradiography, which was at that point the leading modality for breast cancer.
Knowles got a mammogram which confirmed he had breast cancer and immediately got surgery and a BRCA test, a genetic test which shows if a person has a higher risk of developing breast cancer. He added “I am going to get the second breast removed in January (2020), because I want to do anything I can to reduce the risk.” Knowles also revealed a family history of the disease: his maternal aunt died of breast cancer, as did two cousins. “My kids have a 50- to 70-percent chance of getting the BRCA mutation and breast cancer whether male or female. We used to think this was only an issue for women, but this is male or female.” Knowles is raising awareness on early detection as key to safely living with breast cancer. I tend to like Knowles closing remark “men want to keep it hidden, because we feel embarrassed – and there’s no reason for that.”
Until then regularly/daily consume polyphenol-rich cocoa to reduce cancer risk.
DR. EDWARD O. AMPORFUL