Men may not realize that, for them too, any changes in the area of the breasts, including lumps felt on the chest or in the underarm area, could be a sign of breast cancer and should be immediately checked out by a doctor. Although breast cancer is far more prevalent in women—1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime—about 1 in 800 men are also diagnosed with the disease. And since men are less familiar with signs and symptoms, the unfortunate truth is that their breast cancer is often not diagnosed until it’s in a later stage.
Male breast cancer can arise at any age but is more likely to occur in older men, between ages 60 and 70. A man’s risk for breast cancer increases if he has a family history of breast cancer or other genetic risk factors. Breast cancer is diagnosed and treated the same way for both men and women, and the survival rates are similar as well.
“If diagnosed early, male breast cancer is very treatable and generally has a good prognosis,” says Liva Andrejeva-Wright, MD, a radiologist in the Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging. “Just as for breast cancers found in women, breast cancers in men have a better prognosis when detected while they are small in size. If a man feels a breast lump, a lump in the armpit, or experiences suspicious nipple discharge, he should contact his provider and not feel strange or embarrassed about doing so. At the Breast Center, we frequently see men for breast-related complaints. While many breast lumps in men turn out to be benign, some will be cancerous.”