Cancer

Should Men Perform Self-Breast Exams?

If you're male and happen to notice a lump in or around your chest area, you’re likely to brush it off. Men don’t get breast cancer, right?

It’s rare, but it still happens.  “A painless lump – detected by the patient – is the most common way it presents,” Apurva Mehta MD, of the TriHealth Cancer Institute, explains. 

So, yes, if you have a family history of breast cancer or fall into a high-risk category, you should perform self-breast exams, even if you’re a man.

How Do I Perform a Self-Breast Exam?

Self-Breast exams should be performed monthly. You begin by lying on your back. From there:

  • Place your right hand behind your head. With the middle fingers of your left hand, gently yet firmly press down using small motions to examine the entire right breast.
  • Next, sit or stand. Feel your armpit, because breast tissue goes into that area.
  • Gently squeeze the nipple, checking for discharge. Repeat the process on the left breast.
  • Use one of the patterns shown in this diagram to make sure that you are covering all of the breast tissue.

Next, stand in front of a mirror with your arms by your side.

  • Look at your breasts directly and in the mirror. Look for changes in skin texture, such as dimpling, puckering, indentations, or skin that looks like an orange peel.
  • Also note the shape and outline of each breast.
  • Check to see if the nipple turns inward.

Ways to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

Those who are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer can make lifestyle changes to lower their risk. Dr. Mehta suggests:

  • Losing weight
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol
  • Being in tune with your family history

“Be aware that there are certain cancers, especially breast, prostate and ovarian [that put you at a higher risk],” Dr. Mehta points out, regarding family history. “It’s not just BRCA mutations.”

The Big Differences Between Breast Cancer in Women and in Men

“In women, 10 to 15 percent [of breast cancer cases] are what we call lobular carcinoma,” Dr. Mehta says. “In men, we don’t have lobules. We just have ducts. In men, we hardly have cases of lobular cancer, that’s one big difference, the anatomy.”

Another main difference is that the development of pre-cancer is significantly more common in women. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), cancer that develops from the epithelial cells lining the milk duct of the breast, is considered to be “Stage 0” breast cancer. This means there is no invasive component.

The Bottom Line: Don’t Ignore Symptoms

Because breast cancer in men is rare, men who have the disease are more likely to ignore symptoms, meaning it may be caught at a later stage. “That’s the big difference – lack of awareness,” Dr. Mehta points out. “Spread the awareness ... The prognosis, once you've been diagnosed, is very good.”

Tags Cancer , Miscellaneous

Last Updated: November 20, 2013