Dr. Ally, I heard that men could also develop breast cancer, is this true? Why is this not talked about much?
Yes, men can develop breast cancer. It is a very rare occurrence and represents less than 1% of all breast cancer. Death rates are extremely low among men. It usually occurs in men 60-70 years old. Its symptoms are mostly a lump in the breast that you can feel, less commonly nipple discharge, skin changes, and dimpling. Risk factors for men are radiation exposure, diseases related to high estrogen (hormone) levels in the body such as cirrhosis (liver disease) or specific rare genetic disorder. Additionally strong family history of breast cancer in males or females increases risk (chances).
A physician should evaluate all lumps in male breasts especially when they occur on only one side. A mammogram can be ordered. It is a special x-ray that can evaluate the breast tissue. In men, this is usually sufficient. If the area is suspicious, a simple needle biopsy can be done to clarify the type of lump (mass).
Dr. Ally, what age women should begin having mammograms and why is it important?
Routine mammography screening is very useful in detecting masses that are too small to be felt by the patient or the physician. This enables early detection and treatment interventions.
Mammography is routinely recommended beginning at age 40 years old for screening. If normal it should be performed every 2 years. After age 50 years old, routine screening should be every year. Women age 40 and younger should be accessed on an individual basis when to begin routine mammogram screening based on specific benefits and risks. Family history is a particularly important risk factor.
Dr. Ally what are some breast cancer symptoms women should not ignore and why?
The most common early signs for breast cancer are lump (mass) in breast, dimpling (indentation of the skin on the breast), a sore that does not appear to be healing after 1-2 weeks, nipple discharge, texture changes in skin from swelling (looks like skin on an orange). A very important risk factor is family history. This should be discussed with your doctor.
What are some general symptoms that could be from cancer?
1. Unexplained weight loss
2. Lumps on testicles
3. Changes in Breast can be symptoms of breast cancer
4. Unusual Vaginal Bleeding especial post menopausal can be symptoms of endometrial cancer
5. Moles – watch for changes of the skin as some moles can lead to skin cancer
6. Difficulty swallowing can be symptoms of GI cancer
7. Blood in stool & urine can be symptoms of cancer
8. Persistent enlargement of lymph nodes should be checked by a physician
9. Persistent cough especially with blood are all signs that should not be ignored
By Dr. Allyson Anyanwu | Published in Profiles98 Magazine – Fall 1 Anniversary Issue 5 2010