Dr Shaheenah Dawood | Head of oncology at Dubai Hospital Image Credit: Courtesy: Dr Shaheenah Dawood

Dubai

Breast cancer affects men too.

Male breast cancer tends to present itself late due to two main reasons, said Dubai-based specialist breast surgeon Dr. Richard Reyes, co-founder of Breast Cancer Arabia, a free interactive portal to support breast cancer patients, their families and community members. 
He said, “Firstly, men aren’t alert to the potential diagnosis [of breast cancer]. Secondly, the chances of the breast cancer invading the skin or muscle of the chest wall are higher due to the fact that there is very little breast tissue around the cancer compared to women.”

According to global studies, it represents less than one per cent of all breast cancer cases. Speaking to Gulf News, oncology experts spoke about the concerns of the disease.

As men aren’t routinely screened, understanding the risk factors is the first step towards awareness, said Dr. Shaheenah Dawood, head of oncology at Dubai Hospital.

She explained that the major risk factors are prior radiation exposure to the chest wall, genetic predisposition (history of breast cancer in male and female close relatives), obesity (BMI of 30 and higher), and elevated oestrogen levels (caused by chronic liver damage and/or some genetic conditions like Klinefelter’s syndrome).

She said that men may mistakenly take enlarged breast tissue, a condition known as gynaecomastia, as a symptom of breast cancer. “Breasts in men can get enlarged due to medication, hormone imbalance, heavy alcohol consumption and/or weight gain.”

The symptoms to watch are persistent changes to the breasts like hard lumps that are painful or painless, pain in the nipple, sores on the nipple, and /or enlarged lymph nodes under the arm. “Male breast cancer usually presents as a hard lump but men should be alert for any changes in the area including changes in the skin and the nipple,” she said.

The stages of breast cancer in women as well as its treatment are similar in male breast cancer patients, Dr. Dawood added. “To diagnose, the GP may refer further tests like ultrasound and mammogram, and a biopsy if there are lumps or abnormalities in the breasts. Like in women, early detection of breast cancer is paramount.”