Key Points about Male Breast Cancer
- About 1 percent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in men.
- Doctors use biopsy, imaging tests and physical exam to diagnose male breast cancer.
- Treatment for male breast cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and/or radiation therapy.
Breast cancer is cancer that begins in the breast tissue. It is much rarer than the condition in females, but males can develop breast cancer. About 1 in 100 cases of breast cancer is diagnosed in a male.
Male breast cancer causes
This condition is caused by mutations (changes) to the DNA of the cells of the breast.
Male breast cancer risk factors
The following factors may increase your risk for developing male breast cancer:
- Being older than 50
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a close family member who had breast cancer
- Having a condition that affects the testicles
- Having BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations
- Having cirrhosis or the liver
- Having Klinefelter syndrome (rare genetic condition in which males have an extra X chromosome)
- Having received estrogen therapy for prostate cancer
- Having undergone radiation therapy to the chest
Male breast cancer symptoms
Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer are:
- A lump or swelling in the breast
- Discharge from the nipple
- Inward turned nipple
- Irritation or dimpling of the breast skin
- Pain in the nipple
- Skin changes in the breast, such as redness or flakiness
Male breast cancer diagnosis
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam – including asking questions about your health history, your symptoms and related risk factors.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan – this type of imaging test provides a 3D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine if there is any cancer present.
- Biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from the suspicious area. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for abnormalities.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – this type of imaging test uses high-powered magnets to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to look for any areas that could indicate cancer.
- Mammogram – this specialized type of breast X-ray captures images of the inside of the breast. These images allow your doctor to look for any areas of irregularity.
- Ultrasound – this type of imaging test uses sound waves to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to look for any areas that could indicate cancer.
Male breast cancer treatment
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the male breast cancer and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Surgery – in most cases, your doctor will recommend a surgical procedure to remove the cancerous area. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible. In some cases, you may opt to undergo reconstructive surgery following surgery to treat breast cancer.
- Chemotherapy – you may need to undergo chemotherapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically. During this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).
- Hormone therapy – if you have hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, your oncologist may recommend you undergo hormone therapy for estrogen and progesterone.
- Radiation therapy – this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells. You may need to undergo radiation therapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.
- Targeted therapy – this treatment focuses on the molecular changes that make cancer cells grow and spread. These therapies are less likely than chemotherapy to harm healthy cells and may have fewer side effects.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.