Avis Antel

Although much less frequently than women, men do develop breast cancer.

Symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to those experienced by women including breast lumps, swelling, skin dimpling or puckering, nipple retraction, redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin, and nipple discharge. However, because male breast cancer is far less common and many believe that only women get breast cancer, the early signs may be ignored and are often attributed to symptoms of infection or other causes.

Possibly as a result of this lack of awareness and the absence of screening that is routinely done of women, men are diagnosed with breast cancer at an older age when compared with women, and more frequently have lymph node involvement at diagnosis. 

Researchers have reported that the incidence of breast cancer in men continues to rise, yet few studies have addressed the differences between male and female breast cancer.  In the April 2006 issue of Cancer Treatment Reviews, Dr. Zeina Nahleh wrote, “The rarity of male breast cancer has precluded major progress in the understanding and treatment of this disease.” Her 2006 study points to important differences in the biology, pathology, presentation and survival between male and female breast cancer patients and concludes that additional research is needed to define a different approach and appropriate treatment strategies for men with breast cancer. 

According to the Canadian Cancer Society’s website: “As breast cancer is the same for both men and women, the information about risk factors, diagnosis, staging, and treatment are the same for both.” However, on another page of the same website, the following statement is made: “While breast cancer in men is similar to the disease in women, there are some differences. For the most part, breast cancer in men is treated like breast cancer in women after menopause (when the ovaries stop producing estrogen).”1

Canadian breast cancer statistics at a glance:

*age-standardized to the 1991 Canadian Standard Population (per 100,000)