He said he first realized something was wrong in July when he noticed a “dot” of blood on his shirt. He said he could not find out where the blood came from, but after a few days, he decided to check his breast and discovered some discharge from his nipple.
"So, I squeezed my nipple and sure enough, a little discharge came out, bloody discharge," Knowles told The New York Times. "I immediately called my doctor."
Knowles had a test done on the discharge, then a mammogram which revealed he had stage 1A breast cancer. He had a mastectomy just weeks after. During the mastectomy, Knowles also had three lymph nodes removed from under his arm to determine if the cancer had spread from the breast. It had not, Knowles was told.
Women are 10 times more likely to develop breast cancer than are men, but the rareness of the disease in men is a problem in early detection and treatment, according to the American Cancer Society.
"Finding breast cancer early improves the chances that male breast cancer can be treated successfully. However, because breast cancer is so uncommon in men, there is unlikely to be any benefit in screening men in the general population for breast cancer with mammograms or other tests," the ACS said.
Here is a look at the signs and symptoms of male breast cancer, treatment options and who is more likely to get the disease.
How common is male breast cancer?
It is uncommon for men to develop breast cancer. Male breast cancer accounts for less than 1 percent of all cancer diagnoses. On average, 1 man in 833 will develop breast cancer over a lifetime.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to the symptoms of female breast cancer. They include:
- A painless lump or thickening in your breast tissue – in men it is often under the nipple and areola area
- Changes to the skin covering your breasts, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling
- Changes to your nipple, such as redness or scaling, or a nipple that begins to turn inward
- Discharge from your nipple
What risk factors increase a man’s chance of developing breast cancer?
The risk factors that increase a man’s chance of developing breast cancer are:
- Radiation exposure
- High levels of the hormone estrogen
- A family history of breast cancer, especially breast cancer that is related to the BRCA2 gene mutation
Who is likely to get breast cancer?
While men can be diagnosed with breast cancer at any age, breast cancer is very rare in men under the age of 35. Most breast cancers in men are found when they are between the ages of 60 and 70. A lump in the breast area at any age needs to be evaluated by a physician.
Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than are white men.
What happens when breast cancer is suspected?
Your doctor will ask you some questions about your medical and family history if you come to him or her with breast cancer symptoms. After that discussion and a breast examination, a combination of medical tests will likely be ordered.
Those tests include:
- A mammogram
- An ultrasound
- A breast biopsy
- Testing of any nipple discharge
- Genetic testing to determine if a person has a gene mutation that would make them more likely to develop breast cancer
What is the treatment?
Treatment for breast cancer depends on the stage of the cancer – or if the cancer has spread beyond the breast. Among treatment options are:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormonal therapy
What is the prognosis?
The outcome of cancer treatment depends on many factors. If the cancer is detected early before it has had a chance to spread, the five-year survival rate is 100%. Almost half of all male breast cancers are diagnosed at this stage, according to cancer.net.
The five-year survival rate for men with stage II disease is 87%, for stage III disease is 75% and for stage IV disease, when the cancer is advanced and has spread to other parts of the body, 25%.