October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and statistics show that one in eight women in the U.S. will develop it over the course of her lifetime. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate by gender. Dr. Edibaldo Silva is a cancer surgery professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and says out of every 100 women, one man will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. He says many men are the primary carrier of the BRCA gene mutation that increases the risk of certain kinds of cancer.
Dr. Silva says a man may carry the gene but never develop breast or other forms of cancer in their lifetime. However, they can pass that mutation along to their children, both male and female, who have a 50% chance of then carrying that gene mutation.
Dr. Silva says he receives many calls from physicians saying they have a male patient diagnosed with breast cancer. He says, “My next question is always does he have prostate cancer. Almost all of the time the answer will be in the affirmative because the prostate cancer is carried by the same gene but often times expressed at a younger age than the breast cancer itself.”
Dr. Silva says there is a reason that fewer males that carry the BRCA gene develop breast cancer than women. He says, “You need estrogen and the bad gene in a person with estrogen that is developed by the female ovary is what ultimately results in breast cancer in the female. Although the male can have the gene the frequency which they go on to develop breast cancer is a fraction of that in women. Women who carry the gene may have as high as 88% chance of developing breast cancer at a young age. In men, even though the gene may be present, in the absence of estrogen the risk of developing breast cancer is about 11%.
Dr. Silva says since men do not receive mammograms they typically first notice there is a problem when a mass develops. The treatment for male breast cancer is identical to that of women depending on the stage. That may include a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.