What you should know about male breast cancer

SAN ANTONIO – It's not just women who can be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Approximately 1 in every 100 breast cancer cases involve a man.

It may be far less common for men, but it can still be dangerous if it's not caught early.

"They're surprised. They usually don't know that they could have breast cancer," said Dr. Virginia Kaklamani, professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio.

Kaklamani and the Mays Cancer Center see around 500 new breast cancer patients every year. At least five of them are men.

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Like for women, finding breast cancer starts with a lump.

"It's usually painless, so it does not cause pain. Again, something that's important. If you think that, 'Oh jeez, it's not hurting me, it's not going to be anything,' it usually does not hurt," Kaklamani said. "So those are usually the signs and symptoms you're not supposed to have. Other symptoms you're not supposed to have are headaches or shortness of breath or pain anywhere else. It's usually just a painless lump." 

The good news is that Kaklamani and her team treat breast cancer for men relatively similarly to how they treat it for women.

Kaklamani said the prognosis is the same. The stages are pretty similar, and the medications are the same. 

There aren't exactly clear-cut preventative measures, but it's important you are aware of any medical problems your relatives may have.

"Know your family history, especially for men. It's very important that if they have a family history of breast cancer, especially if it was in female relatives that were younger, female relatives that also had ovarian cancer. Those are signs that help us figure out that he may be at risk of breast cancer," Kaklamani said.

And if you do think anything is wrong, or if you do feel what may be a lump, it's better to be safe than sorry.

"The majority of breast cancer patients, whether they are men or women, are curable, and we expect to cure them. The important thing is that we catch it early. So that's why it's important if you do get a breast lump, even if you're a man, please go to your doctor to have it checked out," Kaklamani said.

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