According to the American Cancer Society, male breast cancer makes up only 1% of the total cases of invasive breast cancer in this country. This equals about 2,400 new cases each year with about 430 deaths (2014 data, ACS).
About half of all men will experience gynecomastia, or male breast enlargement during their lifetime. But is gynecomastia a warning sign for male breast cancer (MBC)?
One Patient’s Male Breast Cancer Story
Carlton Robinson received treatment for male breast cancer in 2014. Robinson said he learned that he had a lump during a breast self-exam he performed. He found that lump behind his nipple and had also noticed that the skin on his nipple was “swollen, scaly, changing colors, and tilting a little to the left.”
He described his reaction to the diagnosis as being extremely shocked and highly emotional. He said he thought he was going to die. Thankfully, he has since been treated and is doing fine.
His blood work revealed, however, that he carries the BRCA2 gene, which was most likely the cause for the tumor in his breast. Upon further investigation, dozens of family members had also suffered from breast cancer due to this same genetic mutation.
Dr. Kenneth Smith is the oncologist at the John B. Amos Cancer Center in Georgia, where Carlton was treated. Dr. Smith says he sees about one to two cases of male breast cancer each year. Several additional cases each year are referred to him for growths in the breast that turn out to be benign in nature.
Why Gynecomastia Can Be Confused with MBC
As mentioned, male breast cancer is rare while gynecomastia is fairly common, by comparison. Most men will begin to notice immediate changes in their breast tissue once gynecomastia starts.
These changes can be confused with breast cancer, but are usually not life threatening. This can include:
- Swollen breasts and/or nipples
- Sore breasts and/or nipples
- One breast larger than the other
- Enlarged areola (the area surrounding the nipple)
The warning signs of male breast cancer, on the other hand, include:
- Swollen breast and/or nipple
- Palpable lump, usually under the nipple
- Scaly skin or a wound that won’t heal properly
- Nipple discharge such as blood
- Puckering of the breast or nipple
It can be confusing (and frightening) for men with any of these issues. The best bet is to always see your doctor for a thorough exam and tests. Dr. Smith further explained in his 2014 interview with the Ledger-Enquirer that gynecomastia is a risk factor for breast cancer in some cases.
Other contributors for gynecomastia can include genetic conditions such as Klinefelter Syndrome or a testicular tumor, so see your doctor right away if you notice breast changes.
Looking for a Gynecomastia Surgeon in Long Island or NYC?
Whether you are a bodybuilder, teen, or man over 50, gynecomastia affects males from all walks of life. It does not discriminate when it comes to skin color or ethnicity. This is why it’s so important to see a surgeon that knows about the condition, can help you identify why it happened, and treat it properly.
Visit the male breast reduction specialists at Advanced Cosmetic Surgery of NY for a free consultation. They have decades of experience treating men with gynecomastia, they are board certified, and they make hundreds of patients happy each year.
Call us today in NYC at (212) 206-0023 or in Commack at (631) 499-1831.
*This information is not to be used as medical advice or in place of seeking the advice and treatment from a medical doctor. Always see your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your health or before starting a diet or exercise routine.