Archive for the ‘ Breast Cancer ’ Category

August 6, 2019
Does Breastfeeding Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk?

I’m often asked questions regarding breast health, specifically breast cancer risk and breastfeeding. Most patients like to go to ‘Dr. Google’ when researching information. The intent of this topic is to summarize the benefits that breastfeeding provides and answer a commonly asked question, “does breastfeeding lower your breast cancer risk?” Overall, female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are known to ‘fertilize’ certain breast cancers. A woman’s lifetime exposure to hormones can promote breast cancer cell growth. Studies show that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer, especially in premenopausal women. The benefit is seen in hormone driven (estrogen or progesterone receptor positive) and hormone deprived (estrogen and progesterone negative) breast cancers. Pregnancy protects the breast because there is no ovulation during this time- your hormones are decreased in the system. The decreased number of menstrual cycles reduces your exposure to hormones because the body is focused on the growing baby, not trying to create another! Once your bundle of joy is here, studies show that women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who choose not to breastfeed. states how breastfeeding protects the breast health:

  1. It limits breast cells’ ability to misbehave.
  2. There are fewer menstrual cycles while breastfeeding due to lower estrogen levels.
  3. There’s better overall nutrition with a healthier lifestyle (e.g. less smoking/alcohol).

Most women who breastfeed experience changing hormone levels that delay their menstrual period, which reduces the lifetime breast tissue exposure to hormones. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research and World Health Organization, breastfeeding for at least a 6-month duration demonstrates health benefits and decreases your cancer risk. According to a study by the “Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer,” researchers found that for every 12 months a woman breastfed, her risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3%. The 12-month time period could be with either one child or the total for several children! Despite the lower risk, there are changes in the breast that can occur with breastfeeding: engorgement, mastitis, abscess, cysts, and in rare cases, breast cancer. A woman should see her doctor if the mass does not go away, continues to grow, does not move, or causes skin to change (e.g. dimpling or inflammation). A woman should speak with her doctor directly if they have any concerns about their breast health.

Authored by Anjeanette Brown, MD.

Dr. Anjeanette Brown is a board-certified general surgeon with a specialty in breast health. She is a member of the American College of Surgeons, Society of Surgical Oncology and The American Society of Breast Surgeons. Dr. Brown is passionate about patient care and teaching others about early detection and the treatment of breast cancer. References:  

May 28, 2019
Male Breast Cancer – “Men Can’t Get Breast Cancer, Can They?”

can men get breast cancer“Cancer doesn’t discriminate.” Yet, when it comes to breast cancer, the disease is often associated with females.

Male breast cancer is rare, but it can occur. Less than 1% of all breast cancer cases develop in men, and only 1 in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. A male’s chance of getting the disease increases with age, typically developing between the ages of 60 and 70.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, 2,670 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the United States. Since June is Men’s Health Month, we are helping to raise awareness about male breast cancer and the importance of early detection.

What are the risk factors for male breast cancer?

It is unknown how the cells in the breast become cancerous. However, there are numerous risk factors for male breast cancer that have been identified.

  • Environmental and genetic risk factors
  • Family history – Close family members of a male with breast cancer are at a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer; the risk is highest if the male carries a BRCA mutation
  • History of radiation exposure to the chest
  • Enlargement of the breasts, known as gynecomastia
  • Secondary to drug or hormone treatments, infections or poisons
  • Consumption of estrogen, known as female sex hormones
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome, a rare genetic condition that is defined as the presence of an extra X chromosome in baby boys, which results in increased estrogen levels
  • Cirrhosis, a severe liver disease
  • Diseases of the testicles, including mumps orchitis, a testicular injury, or an undescended testicle
  • Marital status (never married are at higher risk)

Overall, male breast cancer shares many similar risk factors with female breast cancer.

How is male breast cancer diagnosed?

Most male breast cancers are diagnosed when a man discovers a lump on his chest. However, breast cancer in men is often diagnosed at a later stage than female breast cancer. Even when a lump is discovered, men are less likely to be concerned and often avoid seeking medical attention until they experience more severe symptoms. The smaller amount of breast tissue present in men can also make it more difficult to catch cancer at any early stage.

In some cases, a breast lump can be caused by a benign condition, known as gynecomastia. In fact, this cause of a breast lump is much more frequent. The lump in male breast cancer is usually a painless, hard and fixed nodule in the subareolar region; the lump in gynecomastia is usually rubbery, smooth, and movable. Other symptoms of male breast cancer can include nipple inversion, pain, bleeding, and /or skin ulceration.

The same techniques used to diagnose breast cancer in women are used in men:

  • Physical exam
  • Imaging including mammography and ultrasound
  • Biopsy (examining small samples of tissue under the microscope)

The treatment options for male breast cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy

What are the results of male breast cancer treatment?

As in female breast cancer, the results of therapy are dependent on stage at diagnosis and the biology of the tumor. In general, results are similar between males and females when comparing treatment by stage of disease.

Early detection is still the mainstay of success. The estimated 5-year survival rate for early stage male breast cancer is almost 100%. Men’s Health Month is the perfect time to schedule your routine doctor check-ups and to educate yourself and others about male breast cancer.

Authored by James H Frost, MD. Dr. James Frost is a board certified, general surgeon, located in Union, NJ. Dr. Frost has been named a Top Doctor in New York Magazine, Castle Connolly and Inside New Jersey Magazine and specializes in treating patients with benign and malignant breast disease.