Male Breast Cancer

What is Male Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is an irregular growth of tissue on the chest wall behind the nipples. If this cancer is not treated, it can spread to other places in the body, such as the lymph nodes, liver, brain, etc. Although it is extremely rare, breast cancer can actually occur in males. Men have a small amount of breast tissue, although unlike females, this tissue does not produce milk. If a man were to develop breast cancer, it would most likely occur in his sixties or seventies; it is extremely rare for a young man to develop this kind of cancer.

But even though this cancer is uncommon, there are some risk factors to look out for. For example, if a man has a family history of breast cancer—even from a female relative—he too could be at risk. If a man has previously had cancer or been treated with radiation therapy, he has a higher risk of breast cancer. Testicular injuries or illnesses can cause the cancer to develop.

Lastly, some genetic mutations can increase the likelihood of cancer. For example, Klinefelter’s syndrome can occur when an extra X chromosome is added at conception to a man’s usual “XY” sex-determining chromosomes. This genetic condition can change the normal ratios of estrogen to testosterone; and, higher estrogen levels can increase the risk of breast cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer?

The signs of breast cancer present themselves similarly to those in females. However, because men don’t have as much breast tissue, these symptoms can be difficult to spot or are ignored until the cancer has metastasized. While not all lumps are malignant, finding a lump on the chest can be sign of cancer. Any changes to the skin or nipple should be examined; changes can include redness, scaling, dimpling, discharge, or puckering.

How is Male Breast Cancer Treated?

Breast cancer in men can be treated with estrogen-modulator medications, like tamoxifen. If one hormone therapy doesn’t work, there are many others that can be tried since males tend to respond better to that kind of treatment than females. Male breast cancer can also be treated similarly to females, however, with treatments like mastectomies radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

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Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 09, 2017