Despite only a few published studies that have specifically evaluated the differences in side effects of hormone therapy between men and women, Dr Sylvia Rodrigues highlight the most common side effects affecting men.
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Male breast cancer is a rare but real condition that affects men of all ages. Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding male breast cancer, many men are not aware of this condition and may not seek medical help until it’s too late. Breast cancer is often thought of as a woman’s disease, and men may feel embarrassed or ashamed to seek medical help. It’s important to remember that breast cancer can affect anyone, regardless of gender, and seeking medical help early can greatly increase the chances of successful treatment.
What are the odds?
Breast cancer in men is a rare and understudied disease. It accounts for approximately 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses. Few trials have been done specifically for men with breast cancer, and treatment recommendations have been extrapolated from results of clinical trials that enrolled only women.
The average age of diagnosis of breast cancer in men is five years older than for women (67 versus 62) and the risk is higher in men who have a first-degree relative with breast cancer.
Most men will undergo a mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection or sentinel node biopsy followed by radiotherapy if node positive. Since most breast cancers in men are hormone receptor positive, hormonal therapies are an important part of the cancer management.
Tamoxifen is the most used hormonal therapy in men with breast cancer. The side effects of tamoxifen include venous thrombosis, hot flashes, cataracts, sexual dysfunction, mood changes, weight gain and leg cramps. Few published studies have specifically evaluated the differences in side effects between men and women.
Most common side effects of hormone therapy in men
One of the most common side effects of hormone therapy is hot flashes. Hot flashes are sudden, intense feelings of heat that can cause sweating, flushing, and chills. They can be uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. To manage hot flashes, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as wearing lightweight clothing, staying in cool environments, and avoiding spicy foods and alcohol. If lifestyle changes don’t help, there are medications that can be prescribed to manage hot flashes. Before taking any supplements or therapies, remember to discuss them with your doctor as they may adversely affect how tamoxifen works.
Fatigue is a feeling of extreme tiredness that can impact daily activities. To manage fatigue, it’s important to get plenty of rest, adopt a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. Your doctor may also recommend medications or supplements to help manage fatigue.
Sexual side effects
Hormone therapy can also cause sexual side effects in men. These can include erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, and decreased sexual satisfaction. These side effects can be difficult to talk about, but it’s important to discuss them with your doctor so that they can help you manage them. Your doctor may recommend medications or other treatments to help manage sexual side effects.
Improve your well-being
In addition to working with your doctor, there are practical things you can do to manage side effects and improve your overall well-being.
- Adopting a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help support your body during treatment.
- Staying physically active, even if it’s just taking a short walk each day, can also help boost energy levels and improve mood.
- It’s also important to seek support from loved ones, friends, or a support group. Having someone to talk to about your experiences and feelings can be incredibly helpful during this time.
MEET THE EXPERT – Dr Sylvia Rodrigues
Dr Sylvia Rodrigues is a clinical oncologist who works in Alberton. She participates in weekly oncology multi-disciplinary meetings and is a member of the Alberton breast cancer multi-disciplinary team.
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