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Breast Cancer in Men​

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What is Breast Cancer in Men?

Both males and females are born with breast tissue. During puberty, female hormones cause girls' breast tissue to grow into functional breasts, but male hormones suppress breast growth in boys.

Because men have less breast tissue and because that tissue is not as exposed to the growth-promoting properties of female hormones, men seldom develop breast cancer.

Approximately 10 men in a million develop breast cancer. Any cell, however, is capable of undergoing cancerous changes.

Types of breast cancer in men

Men are subject to the same types of breast cancer as women, including:

Who is at risk for male breast cancer?

Anybody can develop breast cancer, but certain factors may increase your risk, including:

  • If you are between 60 and 70 years old
  • A family history of breast cancer
  • A history of radiation exposure to the chest, such as prior cancer treatment

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Male Breast Cancer

Because breast cancer in men is rare, many men and their doctors do not suspect breast cancer until the cancer is at an advanced stage.

Men often see their doctors not because of a lump, but because of:

  • Skin changes
  • Nipple discharge
  • Other symptoms

Symptoms of male breast cancer

Talk to your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • A change in the size or shape of your chest
  • A dimpled, puckered, or "orange-peel" appearance in the skin
  • A lump or thickening on your chest or under your arm
  • A nipple that turns inward
  • Fluid discharge from the nipple, especially if bloody
  • Red or swollen skin on the chest, nipple, or areola (the dark circle of skin around the nipple)

Testing for and diagnosing breast cancer in men

Experts at the Magee-Womens Breast Cancer Program use a variety of tests and procedures to diagnose and screen for breast cancer, including:

Test Description

Ultrasound (sonography)

  • A noninvasive test using high-frequency sound waves to produce real-time pictures of tumors.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

  • An imaging technique using a computer, a magnetic field, and radio waves to produce images of the body's soft tissues.

Mammogram with computer-aided detection (CAD)

  • An imaging procedure of the breast using low-energy x-rays to screen for or detect breast cancer and other abnormalities.
  • A digital mammogram uses a phosphor plate, rather than film, to view mammography images.
  • CAD is software that highlights tissue abnormalities in a mammogram.

3D mammogram (tomosynthesis)

  • An imaging tool using low-energy x-rays to create a 3D image of the breasts.

Minimally invasive breast biopsy

  • The use of a needle to extract a tissue sample from the breast to test for cancer cells.

Treating Breast Cancer in Men

If you're a man who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, treatment will depend on your general health and the results of your tests.

Your doctors and other specialists at the Breast Cancer Program will work with you to consider your options and determine a course of action.

Treatment options for men with breast cancer

Surgery is often the primary treatment for breast cancer.

In many cases, we may also recommend additional therapies before (neo adjuvant) or after (adjuvant) surgery to control an aggressive cancer or to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Procedures and treatments for breast cancer may include:

Surgical Procedures
The surgical removal of part of the breast with a cancerous tumor (lumpectomy), breast tissue, or the entire breast. In some cases, lymph nodes are also removed. In rare cases, some of the chest muscles are removed as well.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy
A minimally invasive procedure to remove lymph node tissue in the armpit to check if existing breast cancer is spreading (metastasizing). Women diagnosed with an invasive breast cancer typically undergo a sentinel lymph node biopsy.
Axillary lymph node dissection
Surgery to remove all or a group of lymph nodes in the underarm (axilla), if your sentinel lymph node biopsy is positive for cancer.
Additional Breast Cancer Therapies
The administration of drugs to destroy the growth abilities of cancer cells. It is sometimes used with radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy
The use of beams of high-energy waves of ion particles to destroy the growth abilities of cancer cells. External radiation therapy directs rays at the tumor from outside a person's body.
Hormone therapy
The use of drugs that stop the production of certain hormones that the cancer needs to grow.