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I recently had a man contact me because he felt a lump near his nipple and was concerned it might be breast cancer. He was smart to be concerned, because men do get breast cancer. Many people don’t realize that men have breast tissue, which means they can develop breast cancer.

While the rate of breast cancer among men is much lower than that of women, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 2,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer in men this year, and about 480 of those men will die from breast cancer.

This is a slight increase from previous years, which may be due to the aging population or possibly to the use of supplemental testosterone. One side-effect of testosterone is that it may increase the risk for developing breast cancer. While many experts believe testosterone supplementation to be safe, as there is no clear data on the risk of cancer and testosterone, any link between testosterone and cancer is currently being investigated.

Regardless of the cause, the bottom line is that a lump in a male breast or chest should never be ignored. Too many men think breast cancer can’t happen to them, or are embarrassed to get a mammogram. They don’t seek care until more symptoms such as redness or scaling of the nipple or discharge from the nipple occurs, and by then the cancer may have spread.

However, if detected early, male breast cancer is just as treatable as female breast cancer. If fact, men can also have a Nipple Sparing Mastectomy, Hidden Scar Surgery, and even reconstruction to increase their odds of looking as natural as possible after surgery.

Men with breast cancer will need BRCA testing because they have a high risk of carrying the abnormal gene. We know that mutations on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene significantly increases a woman’s chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer during her lifetime, but men can carry the BRCA mutations, too. Having a BRCA1/2 mutation increases a man’s risk for developing prostate cancer, and a BRCA2 mutation increases a man’s risk of melanoma, pancreatic cancer, and breast cancer.

Because fathers pass down the BRCA genetic mutation at the same rate that mothers do—a 50% chance—it also impacts their sons’ and daughters’ genetic outlook.

Encourage the men in your life to talk to their doctor if they feel a lump or have swelling of the breast tissue, skin dimpling or puckering, a nipple turning inward, redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin, or discharge from the nipple. Early intervention just might save their life.

If you’d like to discuss the most advanced surgical treatments for breast cancer, consult with Dr. Aaron Margulies. Committed to serving breast cancer patients through his solo practice in Breast Surgical Oncology and General Surgery, Dr. Margulies has offices at Tennova Turkey Creek Medical Center in West Knoxville, at Tennova North Knoxville Medical Center in Powell, at Jefferson Memorial Hospital, and in Newport. His extensive research and expertise have distinguished him as a leader in the field. To learn more about Dr. Margulies’ compassionate surgical care approach visit www.aaronmd.com or call (865) 692-1610.