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Breast Cancer Treatment for Men vs. Women

24 August, 2020 Kratika Saxena

What is Male and Female Breast Cancer?

Breasts in men and women are built of very much the same only the external appearances differ. Human breasts in both sexes have nipples, fatty tissue, breast cells, and ducts.

In both men and women, there are some same risk factors associated with breast cancer. One of the causes of the increase in risk factors in both genders increases because of inherited mutations in their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. A hormone name estrogen is produced by both the genders when they increase with a certain level increases the breast cancer risk. In most of the cases, it is found that more estrogen is produced by women as compared to men.  

When the estrogens levels increases in men they develop a condition called gynecomastia, in which breast tissue in males may grow or swell. Although it is not a risk factor for males, this makes it different from male breast cancer.  

The primary risk factors for breast cancer in men and women are similar, with one exception i.e. the age factor men get at the older age of 66 and 61 in women. Some common risk factors are-

 I. Family history

II. A higher body mass index or obesity

III.  Chronic alcohol use of greater than two drinks per day.

Other risk factors include

a.  Liver diseases such as cirrhosis

b.  Radiation exposure of breast tissue, most commonly in individuals with Hodgkin disease who receive mediastinal radiation

c.   Exogenous estrogens, e.g., taking hormone replacement therapy for 10 to 15 or more years in postmenopausal women or taking exogenous estrogens in transgender males.

Developing male breast cancer is due to a syndrome called Klinefelter syndrome, also called XXY karyotype, that affects 1 in 500 to 1,000 newborn males.

The lack of awareness that a lump that develops in a man’s breast could be breast cancer can also lead to delayed diagnosis, diagnosis at a more advanced stage, and also there is no routine mammographic screening. The ratio of breast tissue to breast cancer is much smaller in men as compared to women.

Treatments 

Treatments for cancer have come a long way for both men and women. If you catch it at an early stage, you can recover it early and even the most advanced cancers can usually be treated, possibly improving your quality of life and letting you live longer. 

3MEDS a leading Anti-cancer medicine supplier Delhi will help you out in checking what are the differences in treatments of male and female breast cancer. 

What Are the Treatments for Male Breast Cancer?

Treatments are almost the same for men and women.  Men can undergo the following treatments, such as-

1. Surgery. The typical treatment for men is mastectomy and breast-conserving surgery. In mastectomy surgery, the entire breast is removed.

In breast-conserving surgery, just the tumor is removed or taken out.  In some cases, one or more lymph nodes are also taken out just to see if cancer has spread or not

2. Radiation Therapy. Radiation therapy consists of radioactive rays or particles after surgery. This therapy kills the cancer cells that were missed in the surgery. It can help kill off any cancer cells that were missed in the surgery or if they are inoperable.

3. Chemotherapy. With this treatment, you’ll be given drugs that have to be taken by mouth or by injection to attack the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is generally given after the surgery just to lower down the risk of cancer coming back. At the advanced stages or if cancer has spread to some other parts of the body chemotherapy may be used as the primary treatment.

4. Hormone Therapy. This therapy blocks the effects of certain hormones to grow, stopping the growth of cancer. This therapy is much more successful in men because men have hormone receptor-positive cancer as compared to women.

For treating male breast cancer, the drug tamoxifen is the standard hormone therapy. This therapy is used after surgery to lower the risk of cancer.   Removing the testes reduces the amount of certain male hormones in the system because it causes breast cancer cells to grow

5. Targeted Therapy. This therapy is used when cancer starts spreading quickly because of an excess of a protein (HER2) found in the body. Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is one of the used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other areas of the body. It stops the production of this protein from making cancer cells grow. This therapy improves the immune system, to fight cancer.

People who are diagnosed with this cancer or treated well and recovered from this have need checkups with your doctor for the rest of your life.

Treatment Options for Women

Most women undergo surgery for breast cancer and or receive other treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation.

There are many options for breast cancer treatment, but before that, your doctor is going to have some questions with you like your age, if you’ve gone through menopause, any other health conditions from which you are suffering, these personal preferences play a role in the decision-making process.

Common treatments for breast cancer include:

1. Breast cancer surgery

Operations used to treat breast cancer include

a. Removing breast cancer (lumpectomy). During a lumpectomy, which may be referred to as breast-conserving surgery or wide local excision, it removes the tumor which is smaller in size and a small margin of surrounding healthy tissue.

While with larger tumors women undergo chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor and make it possible to remove completely with a lumpectomy procedure.

b. Removing the entire breast (mastectomy). A mastectomy is a medical treatment used to remove all of your breast tissue like the lobules, ducts, fatty tissue and some skin, including the nipple and areola (total or simple mastectomy).

Skin-sparing mastectomy and nipple-sparing mastectomy are increasingly common operations for breast cancer.

c. Removing a limited number of lymph nodes (sentinel node biopsy). In this biopsy lymph nodes are removed if there is any condition of the spread of cancer is found.

If no cancer is found in those lymph nodes, other nodes need to be removed.

d. Removing several lymph nodes (axillary lymph node dissection). If cancer is found in the sentinel lymph nodes, additional lymph nodes will be removed from your armpit.

e. Removing both breasts.  Women with cancer in one breast remove the other healthy breast (contralateral prophylactic mastectomy) if they have a very increased risk of cancer in the other breast because of a genetic predisposition or strong family history. Generally, breast cancer develop in one never develops in the other one.  

Breast cancer surgery may have some complications because of the procedure we choose and carries a risk of pain, bleeding, infection, and arm swelling (lymphedema).

With the removal of the breast, you have other options of reconstructing it with a breast implant (silicone or water) using your own tissue can be a suggestion by your doctor. A breast implant can be performed at the time of your mastectomy or at a later date.

2. Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is used to kill the cancer cells, it makes the use of high-powered beams of energy, such as X-rays and protons. This therapy is applied to the larger breast cancers that have spread to the lymph nodes.

But radiation can also be done by placing radioactive material inside your body (brachytherapy) is done after lumpectomy.

This treatment can last from three days to six weeks.

It has some side effects too like fatigue and a red, sunburn-like rash where the radiation is aimed.

3. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy makes the use of drugs to destroy fast-growing cells- cancer cells, which has chances of returning or spreading to another part of your body.  

When the tumor is too large in that case chemotherapy shrinks the tumor to a size that makes it easier to remove with surgery.

Common side effects depend on the type of drugs taken include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and an increased risk of developing an infection.

4. Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy also is known as hormone-blocking therapy.  It is used to treat breast cancers that are caused because of certain hormones. These cancers also referred to as estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) and progesterone receptor-positive (PR positive) cancers.

Hormone therapy can be used before or after surgery or other treatments to decrease the chance of your cancer returning and spreading.

Treatments and medications used in hormone therapy include:

i. Medications used to block those hormones that are attaching to cancer cells (selective estrogen receptor modulators)

ii.  Medications that stop the body from making estrogen after menopause (aromatase inhibitors)

iii. Surgery or medications used to stop the production of the hormone in the ovaries

Hormone therapy side effects include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Some serious side effects are bone thinning and blood clots.

5. Targeted therapy drugs

Targeted drug treatments attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells are available. Abnormalities like overproduction of cancer cells due to protein which helps in its growth and survival.  The drugs damage cancer cells and spares the healthy cells without affecting it.

6. Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy uses your immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy works by interfering with the process. Cancer cells that produce proteins blind the immune system due to which our immune system is unable to fight back.  

7. Supportive (palliative) care

Palliative care provides relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. While undergoing other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, this care can be used.

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