Gynecomastia or Male Breast Cancer?
As noted on a leading gynecomastia resource website, gynecomastia.org, some men worry that their developing gynecomastia is male breast cancer. We’d like to share some information about the disease, and we hope we can reassure you while we pass along some facts and resources.
The first thing to know about breast cancer in men is that it’s rare. We’ve consulted with thousands of men with gynecomastia in New York, and less than a handful have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Since so many patients make appointments with us to assess changes in their breast tissue, it should be comforting that we’ve seen so few cases.
In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, just over 2,000 new cases of breast cancer in men are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Women are 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men.
Does that mean you don’t need to worry? Not exactly. As you probably know, everyone has some breast tissue – men as well as women. That’s why it’s possible for men to get the disease. Breast cancer in men can start in the ducts, or small tubes inside the breast, or in the lobules, the cells that produce milk in women. It can spread to the nipple and beyond to the lymph nodes and other places in the body.
The American Cancer Society says that the causes of male breast cancer are not well understood. But just as for breast cancer in women, it’s thought that for many patients, changing hormone levels play a part. Even though hormone levels are also the root cause of most cases of gynecomastia, if you already have “man boobs” your risk of developing breast cancer is no higher than if you did not have gynecomastia.
Most men who discover they have breast cancer first notice lumpiness or circular growths under the nipple. This kind of tissue is very often found to be gynecomastia, a benign condition, but an experienced physician should still check it right away. The Mayo Clinic notes that many men delay seeing a doctor about breast changes, meaning that many cases are fairly advanced before the patient actually gets treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- A lump or thickening of the breast
- Changes in breast skin, such as puckering or redness
- Changes in a nipple, such as scaly skin or nipple inversion
- Nipple discharge
If you believe you might have breast cancer, a visit to your primary care physician is in order. If you’d like to be checked out for gynecomastia, our New York team can help, and we can refer you to a specialist if we find suspicious tissue. Give us a call at 212-570-6080 or use our simple contact form to get in touch.