Some complaints are often labeled “gynecological diseases” – but this is not true. Malignant carcinomas can also develop in men.
Kassel – Breast cancer is one of the most common diseases in women. According to the German Cancer Society, about 70,000 women develop malignant breast tumors each year. However, men are not immune to “breast cancer”. In 2020, according to Krebshilfe, about 750 men also developed breast cancer.
There is a complete list of diseases that are considered “usually female”, but can also affect men. These include osteoporosis, eating disorders and hormonal fluctuations.
Breast Cancer in Men – Women are not the only ones affected
The exact cause of breast cancer is controversial. In scientific research, obesity, too little exercise, excessive smoking and too much alcohol are typical risk factors. It is still unknown how carcinomas develop. According to the German Cancer Aid, changing the genetic makeup of a single cell is a “crucial step” in the transition from a normal cell to a malignant tumor cell.
It is not clear why the body took this step. Male cells are also known to cause breast cancer. As in women, there are no clear triggers. However, the risk factors for “male” breast cancer differ from women in some respects.
Men and Breast Cancer: These are Risk Factors
Men, like women, produce the sex hormone estrogen, but in very small amounts. According to the German Cancer Research Center, relatively high estrogen levels in men are one of the main risk factors for breast cancer.
Genetic factors or previous illnesses, such as diabetes, prostate cancer, or hyperthyroidism, are also said to increase the risk of disease. Despite all the conditions, women are many times more susceptible to breast cancer. According to statistics, men are affected by about one percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in Germany.
However, the low rate of breast cancer among men also poses a risk: Because it is rare, “breast cancer” is diagnosed only in a few cases in men – and it is generally too late to be diagnosed. Doctors often do not have the disease on their radars and often misinterpret the symptoms. According to the German Cancer Society, men should see a doctor if:
- A noticeable swelling in the chest, around the areola or under the armpits
- Unexplained redness or change in the skin of the chest
- Breast retraction or swelling
- The nipple enters
- The nipple releases fluid
- unexplained weight loss
Another method of diagnosis is an ultrasound or mammogram. Both options are less meaningful for men than women. This is mainly due to the thickness of the breast tissue. Probably the most reliable diagnosis is the analysis of a tissue sample. Minor abnormalities can be identified by biopsy. But it is perhaps the most complicated type of diagnosis.
Breast Cancer Treatment in Men: These Are the Ways
Approaches to breast cancer are almost indistinguishable between men and women. Most breast centers specialize in women, but affected men can also be treated there without any problems. Although many women prefer breast augmentation, tumor removal is standard for men. Mastectomy is difficult to avoid in male patients because the breast tissue is significantly smaller. For this reason, removal of the entire breast, including the nipple, is difficult to prevent.
In rare cases, breast protection surgery may be performed when the tumor is relatively small. Depending on the course of the procedure, treatment is then started. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is common. Rarely, hormone therapy is also used when tumor growth is hormone dependent.
Breast cancer in men: what is the chance of survival?
The diagnosis of cancer always weighs heavily on those affected. Breast cancer can be easily treated in women. What about men? Statistics from the Robert Koch Institute’s “Cancer in Germany” report provide information on 10-year survivors of breast cancer. A distinction was made between men and women.
Figures show a higher mortality rate in men: the relative 10-year recovery rate for women was around 82 percent, while men survived only 65 percent for ten years after developing breast cancer.
However, it is not clear where these deviations come from. Peter Jurmeister, director general of the Men with Breast Cancer Network, also has no answer to this question: “It’s hard to explain the difference, especially if you think men are stimulated to grow the vast majority of these tumors. They should be treated with female hormones and actually anti-hormone therapy.” Jurmeister of the German Cancer Society explains: “Currently, the only explanation for this poor prognosis is the later diagnosis of breast cancer in men.” (aa)