Topic Overview

What is male breast cancer?

Breast cancer in men develops in the small amount of breast tissue found behind a man's nipple. It is often a type called invasive ductal carcinoma.

What causes male breast cancer?

Although the exact cause of breast cancer is not known, most experts agree that some men have a greater risk for breast cancer than others. Male breast cancer mostly affects older men.

Things that increase a man's risk of breast cancer include:

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of male breast cancer is a painless lump or swelling behind the nipple. Other symptoms can include a discharge from the nipple or a lump or thickening in the armpit. Although most men diagnosed with breast cancer are older than 65, breast cancer can appear in younger men. For this reason, any breast lump in an adult male is considered abnormal and should be checked out by a doctor.

How is male breast cancer diagnosed?

To check out a lump or thickening in the breast or armpit , tests such as a mammogram or ultrasound may be done. If either of these tests show signs of cancer, a biopsy will likely be done to know for sure if there is cancer.

Because there is no routine screening for male breast cancer and a breast lump does not usually cause pain, sometimes breast cancer isn't discovered until it has spread to another area of the body and is causing other symptoms.

How is it treated?

The main treatment for male breast cancer is modified radical mastectomy, which is surgery to remove the breast and the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary lymph nodes). In some cases, breast-conserving surgery is possible.

There hasn't been much research on breast cancer treatments in men, because male breast cancer is so uncommon. But breast cancer in men is similar to breast cancer in women, and some of the same treatments may be used. These include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.

Chemotherapy may be used after surgery to reduce the chance that breast cancer will come back somewhere else in the body. Most male breast cancer has estrogen and progesterone receptors. With this type of cancer, treatment may also include medicines, such as tamoxifen.

What to think about

If you have male breast cancer, your doctor may suggest that you see a cancer genetics specialist to talk about genetic testing.

Male breast cancer is rare. For this reason, many experts encourage men with breast cancer to talk to their doctors about clinical trials. These trials continue to look for better ways to treat male breast cancer.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: December 19, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Douglas A. Stewart MD - Medical Oncology