Yes, you read that right. We said gentlemen. Both males and females are at risk of developing breast cancer.
Although more rare in men, it is possible in any gender, especially those with a family history of breast cancer.
In a five-year study carried out in Malaysia, 1.6% of breast cancer patients were male. According to the study, a majority of these male patients had a painless lump which turned out to be a tumour.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19495524/
However, awareness of breast cancer in men is much lower, which is why in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, we’re kicking off a series of Breast Cancer Awareness posts with how to carry out a Male Breast Self Exam (MBSE). Of course, the tips here can be applied to both men and women.
What is a male breast self-exam (MBSE)?
An MBSE is a way for your breasts to be checked for lumps and other changes. Regular BSEs can help you understand how to examine your breasts normally.
Most breast lumps or abnormalities are not cancer, but you may still want to get examined by a doctor once you’ve found one. You can also be watched by your regular healthcare professional and they can confirm whether you are doing your MBSE correctly.
Which men are more likely to get breast cancer?
According to statistics obtained by the Breast Cancer Foundation, the biggest risk factor for both men and women is increasing age. Most cases are diagnosed in men between the ages of 60 and 70. Other risk factors are:
- High oestrogen levels
- Exposure to radiation
- Family history or recognised breast cancer gene in the family
- A rare genetic condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome
All men produce some oestrogen.
But high oestrogen levels have been linked to breast cancer.
High oestrogen levels can occur with the following risk factors:
- Obesity – oestrogen is partly made in the fat (adipose) tissues of the body
- Chronic liver conditions, such as cirrhosis
- Genetic conditions
Why should I do an MBSE?
A lump in your chest may be a sign of breast cancer. It can help detect the presence of cancer early when it is still small. Breast cancer is easier to treat when it is found early. More commonly, a lump may be a sign of a condition that can be treated, such as a hormone problem.
When should I do an MBSE?
You could consider doing it once a month! Mark your calendar to help you remember to do an MBSE on a regular schedule. One easy way to remember is to do the exam on the same day of each month.
How do I do an MBSE?
1. Look at your breasts in a mirror.
Look at the size and shape of each breast and nipple. Check for swelling, lumps, dimpling, scaly skin, or other skin changes. Keep an eye out for nipple changes, such as a nipple that is painful or beginning to pull inward. Gently squeeze both nipples and check to see if fluid comes out of them.
If you find any of these or other breast changes, inform your doctor. Check your breasts while you sit or stand in the following 3 positions:
- Hang your arms down at your sides.
- Raise your hands and join them behind your head.
- Put firm pressure with your hands on your hips. Bend slightly forward while you look at your breasts in the mirror.
2. Lie down and feel your chest/breasts.
When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads out evenly over your chest. This makes it easier for you to feel for lumps and anything that may not be normal for your breasts. Examine one breast at a time.
3. Place a small pillow or towel under your left shoulder.
Put your left arm behind your head.
4. Use the 3 middle fingers of your right hand.
Use your fingertip pads, on the top of your fingers. Your fingertip pad is the most sensitive part of your finger.
5. Use small circles to feel your chest/breast tissue.
Use your fingertip pads to make dime-sized, overlapping circles on your breast and armpits.
First, press lightly. Second, press with medium pressure to feel a little deeper into the breast. Last, use firm pressure to feel deep within your breast.
6. Examine your entire breast area.
Examine the breast area from above the breast to below the breast where you feel only ribs. Make small circles with your fingertips, starting in the middle of your armpit. Make circles going up and down the breast area. Continue toward your breast and all the way across it. Examine the area from your armpit all the way over to the middle of your chest. Stop at the middle of your chest.
7. Move the pillow or towel to your right shoulder, and put your right arm behind your head.
Use the 3 fingertip pads of your left hand, and repeat the above steps to do a BSE on your right breast.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You find any lumps or changes in your breasts.
- You have breast pain, or fluid is coming from your nipples.
- You have questions or concerns or concerns about your condition or care.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Use the knowledge you have above to educate both the women and men in your lives. Early detection saves lives!