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An Uncommon Truth: Men and Breast Cancer

Hi everyone, we hope you are enjoying 2017 so far. Over the last 6 months we've discussed many stories of survival, elements of breast cancer, diagnosis, signs and symptoms, etc. - all largely focused on females - but despite its rarity, men can develop breast cancer, too.

While it is true that breast cancer does occur mainly in women, men have breast tissue and therefore it is possible that they can develop breast cancer.

As we have learned, when a breast cancer has formed, a malignant tumor has started from cells of the breast. And a malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can spread into surrounding tissues or other areas of the body.

For men, even after they pass puberty as boys, they generally have low levels of female hormones and breast cancer is less common because their breast duct cells are less developed than a woman's, too.

Still breast cancer in men can occur and there are five main types.

Probably the most common type is invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC or infiltrating ductal carcinoma) which starts in a milk duct of the breast, pushes right through the wall of the duct, then grows into the fatty tissue of the breast. When this happens it may spread into the lymphatic system and then enter the bloodstream. At least 8 out of 10 male breast cancers are IDCs. While some milk ducts do exist in men, they remain undeveloped and actual Lobules are most often completely absent. This absence is why infiltrating lobular carcinoma (ILC or invasive lobular carcinoma) is very rare in men, since men typically don’t have much lobular tissue to begin with. ILC starts in the breast lobules and spreads into the breast's fatty tissue. Breast lobules are glands that in women produce milk.

A third kind of breast cancer in men is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS or intraductal carcinoma) and this one is actually considered non-invasive or pre-invasive because here the cells that line the ducts have only altered to look like cancer cell but have not actually spread into surrounding tissue of the breast in most cases. DCIS accounts for only about 1 in 10 cases of breast cancer in men. And even better news is that it is almost always curable with surgery.

However, Paget disease of the breast does make up for a greater percentage of male breast cancers, and is actually more common in men than women. Paget disease may be connected with DCIS or IDC. Here breast cancer has started to form in the ducts, spreads to the nipple and can spread to the areola. With this form of breast cancer the nipple can look crusted and include some itching or burning.

Lastly, inflammatory breast cancer is an extremely rare type of breast cancer found in men. This form of breast cancer can be mistaken for an infection actually because instead of a lump the breast becomes swollen and tender.

Now while it's true our survivor family is made up largely of some fierce females, our arms are always open to anyone battling this disease - men, too. Support is support no matter your sex or specific diagnosis, we are a resource of breast cancer survival and inspiration for anyone who wants or needs it.

So we hope you join us next month for more stories of survival and inspiration, until then keep your Eye On Strength!

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