Breast cancer in women is a widely known matter, but what about male breast cancer?

Yes, breast cancer can affect men too. It is rare compared to female breast cancer. Over an 18-year period, only about 62 cases have been diagnosed and treated at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), compared to its 1,300 new cases of female breast cancers annually. In 2014, NCCS only saw one case of male breast cancer, but five in 2013 and six each in 2010 and 2006.

The disease is essentially the same, regardless of gender. It starts with a painless lump in one breast which gradually grows in size.

“In rare cases, patients may also have eczema-like skin changes in the nipple area, or a lump in the armpit due to the enlargement of at least one of the lymph nodes. In advanced stages, more breast cancer symptoms such as bone pain, breathlessness or jaundice come into play as the cancer spreads to other areas like the bones, lungs or liver,” said Assistant Professor Preetha Madhukumar, Senior Consultant, Division of Surgery & Surgic​​al Oncology​, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the SingHealth​ group.​​

Lack of aware​​ness​

Unlike female breast cancer, not much progress has been made in the early detection and treatment of male breast cancer. This could be due to a lack of awareness among men, causing th​em to disregard a small lump in the breast and not get medical attention in time.

A study by doctors from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) noted this delay too. Looking at patient data over 15 years, they revealed that about half their male patients were diagnosed only when they were in the advanced stages.

“In fact, one of my patients came for consultation only after his sister was diagnosed with breast cancer even though he had had the lum​p for some time. But this has to change. Men need to be made more aware,” said Dr Preetha.​

​Ref: K21