If you're a man who's just been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may feel shocked. You have a serious disease and you have some important decisions to make. Perhaps the kind of cancer you have makes it even more surprising. Hearing your doctor tell you that you have breast cancer is probably not something you ever expected.
You may also be frustrated as you try to find the facts about your condition, because almost all of the information you come across is written for women. If you're a man, you don't know what to expect.
In inflammatory breast cancer, cancer has spread to the skin of the breast and the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm. The redness and warmth occur because the cancercells block the lymph vessels in the skin. The skin of the breast may also show the dimpled appearance called peau d'orange (like the skin of an orange). There may not be any lumps in the breast that can be felt. Inflammatory breast cancer may be stage IIIB, stage IIIC, or stage IV.
Inflammatory breast cancer...
Keep in mind that while breast cancer is rare in men, anyone can get it. Any cell in your body can become cancerous. So even though men have a very small amount of breast tissue, cancer can develop there, too. About 2,200 American men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
Breast cancer in men and women is very similar, although men tend to get it at a later age. The causes, the staging, and the treatments are similar. The prognosis is different overall. Breast cancer in men is not usually considered as a possibility and therefore, it is usually diagnosed at a later stage then female breast cancers. Studies have demonstrated a worse prognosis for male breast cancers as compared to female breast cancers, especially for African-American men.
Fortunately, treatment for breast cancer has come a long way, for both men and women. If you catch it at an early stage, your odds for recovery are excellent. And even the most advanced cancers can usually be treated, possibly improving your quality of life and letting you live longer.
What Are the Treatments for Male Breast Cancer?
Treatments for breast cancer in men and women are generally the same. Many men benefit from a combination of different treatments. Here's an overview of the various approaches:
Surgery. The typical treatment for men is a mastectomy, in which the entire breast is removed. Breast-conserving surgery -- in which just the tumor is taken out -- isn't usually possible for an obvious reason: Men don't have much breast tissue to allow for a clear surgical margin. The surgeon should also take out one or more of the lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread.
Radiation Therapy. Treatment with radioactive rays or particles may be used after surgery. It's used to help kill off any cancer cells that were missed in the surgery. In some cases, radiation may be the main treatment if the cancer is inoperable.
Chemotherapy. This is treatment with drugs -- either taken by mouth or by injection -- that attack cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to lower the risk of the cancer coming back. For men with advanced cancer or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic cancer), chemotherapy may be the primary treatment.
Endocrine Therapy. Some kinds of breast cancer need certain hormones to grow. Endocrine therapy blocks the effects of these hormones, stopping the growth of the cancer. Endocrine therapy is often more successful in men than in women, because more men -- about 75% -- have hormone receptor-positive cancer. The drug tamoxifen is the standard endocrine therapy for male breast cancer. The effects of the new aromatase inhibitors like anastrazole (Arimidex) and letrozole (Femara) haven't been studied much in men. Sometimes, removal of the testes reduces the amount of certain male hormones in the system. Men with breast cancer should never take testosterone, as it stimulates breast cancer cell growth.
Endocrine therapy is often used after surgery to lower the risk of the cancer coming back. For men with locally advanced or metastatic cancer, it may be the primary treatment.
Biological Therapy. Some men have an excess of a protein that makes cancer spread quickly. Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a drug that's been approved to treat metastatic breast cancer. It stops this protein (her-2) from making cancer cells grow. It may also boost your immune system, giving it more strength to fight the cancer itself.