Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too, Says Medical Chief of Staff at JNF Hospital

Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 05, 2016 (SKNIS): Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph Nathaniel France (JNF) General Hospital, said that it is not only women who are predisposed to getting breast cancer but that men can also get breast cancer, although the incidence is much lower.

Studies have shown that men have a small amount of breast tissue. The breasts of an adult man are similar to the breasts of a girl before puberty. In girls, this tissue grows and develops, but in men, it doesn’t. But because it is still breast tissue, men can get breast cancer. Men can get some of the same types of breast cancers that women do, but cancers involving the parts of the breast that make and store milk are rare.

Dr. Wilkinson said that in his 19 years of practice he has seen some four or five male patients with breast cancer.

“Despite the fact that most men have a flat chest and you think that it would be very easy for them to see if there is abnormal growth, they tend to present at a later stage,” said Dr. Wilkinson, while appearing on “Working for You” on Wednesday (November 02). “At stage for stage, men tend to do much worse than women. A lot of times men are not that conscious about their health, or if they are aware of it, they don’t pay attention to it, and so the ones who I have seen, they usually come when there is a mass that is eroding their chest, as opposed to coming when it is a little lump and it can be spared.”

The medical chief of staff explained that the male population would be less affected than women, noting that one has to take into consideration the risk factors associated with breast cancer.

“The most important thing that puts a woman at risk for getting breast cancer is estrogen and estrogen production because a number of risk factors are related to estrogen production,” he said. “For example, when I am talking about this topic, I always like to tie in all the things that are associated with estrogen so you can see how important that is as it relates to breast cancer.”

He explained that women who experience early menopause or those who have the onset of menstruation at an early age – that is before the age of 12 or 13—are more predisposed to getting breast cancer. He said that menstruating at an early age means that a woman’s breasts are exposed to estrogen early, thus resulting in them having the presence of estrogen for a longer period of time, thereby predisposing them to a greater chance of getting breast cancer. Additionally, he said, that women who have menopause at a later age, those who have never given birth to children or those who had their first child at a later age, those who are taking estrogen or undergoing hormone replacement therapy, as well as women who are obese, tend to be at a greater risk for getting breast cancer.

Dr. Retna Walwyn Browne, Director of Community –based Health Services,
Dr. Retna Walwyn Browne, Director of Community –based Health Services,

Dr. Retna Walwyn Browne, Director of Community –based Health Services, explained a number of other common risk factors that predisposes one in getting breast cancer.

“First and foremost you can talk about family history. Most persons, if they have an immediate relative who has had breast cancer previously, this puts a persons a risk,” said Dr. Browne. “And there is actually the presence of the BRCA (BReast CAncer) gene that persons can actually screen to see if that is present in their case. Apart from the family history, there is also your age of course, over the age of 40, and as you get older, this puts you at risk.”

Data taken from state that BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and therefore play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer. A damaged BRCA gene in either location can lead to increased risk of cancer, particularly breast or ovarian cancer in women.

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