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Male Breast Cancer

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Male breast cancer is a rare cancer that affects older men.

Breast cancer normally affects women. However, there are rare cases where cancer develops in the male breast. Just as in the case of other cancers, an abnormal and uncontrolled cell division in the breast tissue leads to male breast cancer. The cancer is rare and accounts for less than 1% of all breast cancer cases.

Male Breast Cancer

Though male breast cancer can occur at any age, it is most common in older men. Most of the cases are diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 70 years. Diagnosis is usually confirmed by biopsy. An early diagnosis ensures complete cure. Unfortunately most cases of male breast cancers are diagnosed when the disease is advanced. Treatment of male breast cancer often involves surgery. Alternative options such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy are also available.

Cause of Male Breast Cancer

The exact cause of male breast cancer is not known. A cancer is the result of abnormal and uncontrolled cell division. Rapidly dividing abnormal breast tissue cells accumulate producing a tumor. The tumor may spread to adjacent tissues, to lymph nodes or to any other part of the body. Tumor spread to a region of the body other than its origin is called metastasis.

A small amount of breast tissue is present during birth irrespective of gender. Women develop more breast tissue during puberty while men do not. Thus, men carry a small amount of nonfunctioning breast tissue. Breast tissue comprises of milk-producing glands (lobules), ducts that carry milk to the nipples, and fat.

Based on the structure in which cancer originates, male breast cancer may be of three types (there are other types apart from these, but are much rarer):

1) Ductal carcinoma: This cancer begins in the milk ducts and is the most common type of male breast cancer.

2) Lobular carcinoma: This cancer begins in the lobules, i.e. milk-producing glands. It is rare in men, since male breast tissue has few lobules.

3) Pagetís disease of the nipple: Pagetís disease of the nipple is a cancer in and around the nipple. It is usually associated with an underlying cancer of the breast.

Mutations in a protective gene called BRCA2 may increase the risk of acquiring breast cancer. These genes are inherited from parents.

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