When is the last time your husband performed a breast exam on himself? What about your father or even your son? Most likely it hasn’t been recently, probably not frequently, and in fact he may have never performed an exam more than once in his life. Even though men do not have breasts like women, they do have a small amount of breast tissue and can develop breast cancer.
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Breast cancer in men accounts for only about one percent of all breast cancers. This is possibly due to their smaller amount of breast tissue and the fact that men produce smaller amounts of hormones such as estrogen that are known to affect breast cancers in women.
A lower percentage does not mean that men who develop breast cancer have a better, more treatable or more positive outcome. Doctors used to think that breast cancer in men was a more severe disease than in women, but it now seems that for comparably advance breast cancers, men and women have similar outcomes.
Unfortunately, breast cancer in men is often diagnosed later than breast cancer in women, possibly because men are less likely to be suspicious of an abnormality in their breast area.
The clearest risks for developing breast cancer in men are:
- Men who have had an abnormal enlargement of their breasts (called gynecomastia)
- Drug or hormone treatments that cause the breasts to enlarge
- Infections or contact with certain poisons
- Individuals with Klinefelter’s syndrome, a rare genetic disease
Remind your father, husband or son about doing a regular breast exam. The conversation may be uncomfortable at first, but it’s a conversation that just might save their life.