Of course, men get breast cancer. Most men think that breast cancer is only a woman’s disease. This common mistake can be fatal for thousands of men every year. The average rate of breast cancer developing in women is 1 in 8, or 12% of the population. Male breast cancer statistics show that the average rate of breast cancer in men is 1 in 1,000. So while it is less likely, it is still possible.
Since early detection is key to a good outcome, here are a few essentials about male breast cancer.
Breast cancer runs in families
A high proportion of women getting breast cancer means an increasing number of men who have breast cancer in the family, which means they might be more prone to get it.
Breast cancer has a genetic component
If a man has a family history of breast cancer, they might wish to be tested to see if they are carriers of a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. A healthy gene will suppress cancerous activity. A mutated one will not be able to do its job, so cancer may develop. The test is easy to conduct and relatively inexpensive. Depending on the results, a man can either gain peace of mind that they are not a carrier, or start doing self-examinations and following a screening schedule.
A healthy lifestyle to protect against male breast cancer
A healthy lifestyle can help you prevent disease, even serious ones like heart disease and cancer. Heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in the USA, killing more men and women than all of the top 10 cancers combined, so it is important to put the risk of developing cancer into perspective and not panic at the idea of breast cancer.
Studies have shown that a plant-based diet which is low in red meat, saturated fat, and full-fat dairy and trans-fats such as in fast food. There are a number of choices that are easy for men to follow if they have to cook for themselves, including the Mediterranean Diet, Okinawan Diet and DASH diet. They are all heart-healthy diets and might fight cancer too.
The DASH diet also lowers high blood pressure and is free, with many useful resources online. It can also promote weight loss.
Other smart choices a man can make to prevent breast cancer include:
- Not smoking
- Watching your weight
- Regular exercise
- Managing stress
- Good sleep habits, with 8 hours of high-quality sleep each night
Early diagnosis is best
Prevention is key, if possible, but if you have a history of breast cancer in the family, your second line of defense is early detection and treatment.
Once a diagnosis of cancer has been established and staged by the doctor, they will make recommendations about the best treatment/s depending on the stage of the cancer and the person’s age, overall health, and any underlying medical conditions they might have.
The main treatment options for breast cancer are:
- Radiation Therapy
- Hormonal Therapy
All of these have various side effects, but offer a good chance of a cure.
Breast self-examination for men
Men can learn how to conduct self-exams as well. This should be easier for men than women because men’s have far less mammary tissue than women and tumors or changes will be much more noticeable. The important thing is for men to follow up if they find anything unusual and get a clinical breast examination from your doctor.
If any women in your family have had breast cancer, start a routine of regular breast self-examination and discuss your concerns with your doctor to see what they recommend in terms of testing. Also consider getting a BRCA test, and discussing breast cancer with both your daughters and your sons.