Cases of breast cancer in men up since 2003

The American Cancer Society’s estimate for cases of breast cancer in men went up by 390 from 2003.

Jamie VanGeest

Women are more likely than men to develop breast cancer, but men are more likely to die from it. Since 2003, cases of breast cancer in American men have been on the rise.

The American Cancer Society estimates 1,690 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and 460 of them will die from it.

The estimated number of cases is up since 2003, when the American Cancer Society estimated 1,300 men would be diagnosed with breast cancer and 400 would die of the disease.

While breast cancer in men accounts for only 1 percent of all breast cancer cases, men who are diagnosed are 42 percent more likely to die than women with the disease, according to the John W. Nick Foundation, a breast cancer awareness organization.

The stages of men’s breast cancer are similar to the stages of breast cancer in women, but men are not typically diagnosed until the later stages, said Karyl Range, health promotions manager for the American Cancer Society Midwest division.

These later diagnoses occur because, although men will find a lump in their breast or notice their nipple looks different, they are notoriously bad at going to the doctor, she said.

Also, if men notice abnormalities in their breasts, they might think it is a feminine issue and therefore conclude something is wrong with them, Range said. Embarrassment could cause men to avoid getting their breasts checked.

Breast cancer in men might also be misdiagnosed because it is so rare. Men and women should always get a second opinion, she said.

Like women, men usually are diagnosed with breast cancer in their 60s but, Susan Pappas-Varco, the University Cancer Center’s breast cancer program coordinator, said, in the past few years she has seen a few cases of men in their 30s or 40s diagnosed.

Men with increased exposure to estrogen are at the greatest risk for breast cancer. Men who have Klinefelter syndrome or sclerosis of the liver have more estrogen exposure, said Doug Yee, leader of the University Cancer Center’s breast cancer research program.

Similar to women, men are capable of carrying the breast cancer genes. According to the American Cancer Society, 20 percent of men with breast cancer have female relatives who have been diagnosed with the disease, Yee said.

Five percent to 10 percent of men have the gene mutation which can put men and woman at a higher risk for breast cancer, he said.

“(Men are) treated very similar to how women are treated, the same drugs and the same surgery,” Yee said. “One difference is women choose to have breast conservation therapy, and for men that isn’t such a big deal. Most men just choose to have a mastectomy.”

Whether a patient gets chemotherapy or hormonal therapy depends on the size of the tumor, he said.

Men should pay attention to abnormalities on or near their breasts.

“Just like in women, (men should check for) any lump that is sort of abnormal or firm, in the chest wall itself or in the armpit,” Yee said.

Range said tumors will form right under the nipple. Also, the nipple can become inverted or get scaly.

Yee said breast cancer in men is not prevalent enough to conduct research because it is difficult to find enough patients for trials.