Breast cancer is often labeled a “women’s disease” – but that’s wrong. Men can also develop malignant carcinomas.
Kassel – Breast cancer is one of the most common diseases in women. According to the German Cancer Aid, around 70,000 women develop malignant breast tumors every year. But men are not spared from “breast cancer” either. In 2020, around 750 men also developed breast cancer, as the Cancer Aid describes.
There is a whole list of diseases that are considered “typically female”, but which can also affect men. These include osteoporosis, eating disorders, and hormone fluctuations, among others.
Breast cancer: men are also affected
The exact cause of breast cancer is controversial. In scientific studies, obesity, too little exercise, excessive smoking and too much alcohol are typical risk factors. How carcinomas develop is still largely unknown. According to the German Cancer Aid, changing the genetic makeup of a single cell is the “decisive step” from a normal cell to a malignant tumor cell.
Why the body takes this step is unclear. It is known, however, that male cells can also cause breast cancer. As with women, there are no clear triggers here either. However, the risk factors for “male” breast cancer differ in some respects from those of women.
Men and breast cancer: what are the risk factors
Men, like women, produce the sex hormone estrogen, but only in very small quantities. A comparatively high level of estrogen in men is one of the main risk factors for breast cancer, reports the German Cancer Research Center.
Genetic factors or previous illnesses such as diabetes, prostate cancer or an overactive thyroid would also increase the risk of the disease, it is said. Despite all the circumstances, women are many times more susceptible to breast cancer. Statistically speaking, men are only affected by around one percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in Germany.
But the low breast cancer rate among men also harbors dangers: Due to its rare occurrence, “breast cancer” is only diagnosed in a few cases in men – and when it does, it is usually too late. Doctors often do not have the disease on their radar and often misinterpret the symptoms. According to the German Cancer Aid, men should consult a doctor if:
- Noticeable lump in a breast, around the areola, or in the armpit
- Unclear redness or change in the skin on the chest
- Retraction or bulging of a breast
- Nipple pulls in
- The nipple exudes fluid
- Inexplicable weight loss
Another means of diagnosis is an ultrasound or a mammogram. Both options are, however, much less meaningful for men than for women. This is mainly due to the thicker breast tissue. Probably the safest diagnosis is the analysis of a tissue sample. Small abnormalities can be identified with a biopsy. But it is probably also the most complex type of diagnosis.
Treating Breast Cancer In Men: These Are The Ways
The approaches to breast cancer hardly differ between men and women. Most breast centers specialize in women, but affected men can also be treated there without any problems. While many women prefer breast-conserving therapy, surgery to remove the tumor is the standard for men. The so-called mastectomy can hardly be avoided in male patients, as there is significantly less breast tissue. Therefore, removal of the entire breast, including the nipple, can hardly be prevented.
In rare cases, when the tumor is relatively small in relation to the breast, breast-conserving surgery can also be performed. Depending on the course of the procedure, further therapy will be started afterwards. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy are common. In rare cases, hormone therapy is also used if the tumor growth is hormone-dependent.
Breast cancer in men: what are the chances of survival?
A cancer diagnosis always hits those affected hard. Breast cancer, however, is considered to be easily treatable in women. But what about men? Statistics from the report “Cancer in Germany” by the Robert Koch Institute gave information on the 10-year survivors of breast cancer. A distinction was made between men and women.
The figures show that mortality is significantly higher in men: the relative 10-year survival rate for women was around 82 percent, while men had a survival rate of only 65 percent in the ten years after developing breast cancer.
However, it is not clear where these deviations come from. Peter Jurmeister, CEO of the “Men with Breast Cancer” network, does not know the answer to this question either: “This difference is difficult to explain, especially when you consider that the vast majority of these tumors in men are stimulated to grow by female hormones and should actually be treatable with anti-hormone treatment. ”However, there could be a possibility. “The only explanation that the experts currently have for this poor prognosis is that breast cancer is diagnosed later in men,” explains Jurmeister of the German Cancer Society. (aa)