Leadership (Abuja)

29 December 2012

Nigeria: Male Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a disease which occurs as a result of uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in breast tissues. Normal body cells multiply when the body needs them, and die when the body doesn't need them. However, series of studies show that cancer occur when the growth of cells in the body is out of control, and cells divide too quickly, or do not die.

Leadership Good Life spoke with a medical expert at the National Hospital, Abuja, who described breast cancer as "malignant tumor that attacks the breast tissues." There are various cancer types such as lungs, colon, breast, prostate, skin and the rest.

Unfortunately, breast cancer is wrongly seen to be a disease related only to women, since men do not possess pronounced breasts. This is wrong. It may interest you to know, that boys and girls, men and women all have breast tissues. The difference, however, is in the various hormones secreted in the breasts. While the hormones in girl's and women's bodies stimulate the breast tissue to grow into full breast, the boy's and men's bodies don't produce such breast-stimulating hormones.

Both men and women may develop benign i.e a non cancerous breast conditions. However, the benign breast conditions most common in women such as cysts are very rare in men.

The most common benign breast condition in men is gynecomastia, that is an enlargement of the breast tissue. This results from a hormone imbalance in the body. In some cases boys can get a temporary form of gynecomastia during puberty but there is usually no cause for alarm as it does not need to be treated unless it is desired or it causes pain. In these cases, it can be treated with hormone therapy or surgery.

Warning signs of male breast cancer

• Lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast (usually painless, but may be tender)

• Dimpling, puckering or redness of the skin of the breast

• Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple

• Pulling in of the nipple (inverted nipple) or other parts of the breast

• Nipple discharge

How common is male breast cancer?

According to research, breast cancer is a rare disease in men, and less than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men. It is further observed that out of 1000 men, only one may have breast cancer. To know that men are rarely at the risk of being diagnosed with cancer may be interesting, yet it is important to pay meticulous attention to the danger, which may not be visible to many cases.

Medical research shows that the strongest risk factor for male breast cancer is Klinefelter's syndrome, a condition related to high levels of estrogen in the body. This rare condition occurs when men are born with two X chromosomes instead of one (XXY instead of XY). Men with Klinefelter's syndrome have a 20 to 50 times greater risk of breast cancer compared to men without this condition

Other risk factors that can expose men to breast cancer include heavy alcohol use, chronic liver disease and obesity. These conditions can increase estrogen levels in the body and these higher estrogen levels, in turn, may increase breast cancer risk. Some hormone drugs used to treat prostate cancer also may increase the risk of male breast cancer.

Exposure to large amounts of radiation early in life (such as the atomic bomb explosions in Japan and radiation treatment for childhood cancer) may also be linked to an increased risk of male breast cancer.

Experts observe that "since men are not often screened for cancer because they believe it's a rare condition for men, breast cancers are often at advanced stage in men more than women when first detected." Obviously, treatment is usually difficult at this stage. This is evident in the research discovery that most cases of male breast cancer are detected in men between the ages of 60 and 70, although the condition may have developed in an early age.

Experts maintain that treatment of male breast cancer would include chemotherapy, radiotherapy as well as surgery where necessary. However, the goal of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is to reduce the multiplicity of cancer cells and enhance longevity. Also, successful removal tumour may lead to total cure.

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