Washington (ISJ) - Breast cancer is usually believed to be associated with women, as reflected by pink ribbons and gear, but men too get it, albeit rarely, reports US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since male breast cancer is a rare occurrence, there is no clinical trial data available on its treatment.
"We tend to treat men the same way we treat women," says Tatiana M. Prowell, MD, a medical oncologist and breast cancer scientific lead at FDA's Office of Hematology & Oncology Products. "Men have historically been excluded from breast cancer trials.?
Every year, about 2,000 cases of male breast cancer (1% of all cases) are diagnosed in the United States, resulting in fewer than 500 deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute. Although it can strike at any age, it is found most often among men between ages 60 to 70.
Prowell says one reason for the late-age (and later stage) diagnosis may be that men don't think of themselves as being at risk of breast cancer. "You'd think that because men have smaller breasts they would notice a lump instantly," Prowell says. "But men don't expect a breast lump to be cancer, whereas most women who feel a breast lump immediately assume the worst."
Most men with breast cancer have painless lumps they can feel. The lumps can develop anywhere on the breast but often are underneath the nipple and areola complex?right in the center. Because men don?t have regular mammograms, their breast cancer is usually discovered when they feel sore, such as from a fall or injury.
"Men often attribute breast lumps to some sort of injury. The mass was already there, but they didn't notice it until it got sore," said Prowell.
Men and women share some similar risk factors for breast cancer - high levels of estrogen exposure, a family history of the disease and a history of radiation to the chest. Although all men have estrogen in their bodies, obesity, cirrhosis (liver disease) and Klinefelter's syndrome (a genetic disorder) increase estrogen levels. All are known risk factors for male breast cancer.
Treatment options for men are similar to women's - mastectomy (surgery to remove the breast) or in some cases lumpectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapies and hormone therapy.
Pix courtesy: USFDA