Understanding Male Breast Cancer

Cancer occurs when cells in the body change and grow out of control. These cells can form lumps called tumors. They can also spread into nearby tissues and to other parts of the body. Cancer that starts in the breast tissue is called breast cancer. Breast cancer is rare in men, but it does occur.

What causes male breast cancer?

Experts are not exactly sure what causes male breast cancer. But certain things can increase the risk of having it. These include:

  • Being over age 60

  • Having had radiation to the chest to treat a different cancer

  • Having high levels of estrogen hormone in the body

  • Having a family history of breast cancer

  • Having certain gene mutations, such as the breast cancer genes called BRCA-1 and BRCA-2

  • Having Klinefelter syndrome, an inherited condition

  • Heavy alcohol use

  • Having liver disease

  • Being obese

Symptoms of male breast cancer

These can include:

  • A lump in the breast that can be seen or felt

  • A change in skin color over the breast

  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin over the breast

  • A nipple that becomes pulled in (retracted)

  • Discharge from a nipple

Treatment for male breast cancer

There are a number of treatments for breast cancer. The best treatments for you will depend on many things. These include the type of breast cancer you have, the tumor size and location, and if the tumor is affected by certain hormones, like estrogen. The stage of the cancer also matters. This refers to how fast the cancer is growing and if it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. These are the most common treatments for male breast cancer:

  • Surgery. In most cases, the surgeon removes the entire breast containing the tumor. Nearby lymph nodes and chest wall muscle may also be removed.

  • Radiation therapy. High-energy X-rays are used to kill cancer cells in the breast or slow their growth.

  • Chemotherapy. Strong medicines are used to kill cancer cells throughout the body or slow their growth.

  • Hormonal therapy. Special medicines are used to prevent certain hormones the body makes from helping cancer cells grow.

  • Targeted therapy. Special medicines focus on and attack and kill cancer cells while limiting the damage to healthy cells.


To learn more about male breast cancer, these resources may help:

  • American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org, 800-227-2345 

  • National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov, 800-422-6237

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