Male Breast Cancer

Breast cancer happens when certain cells in the breast become cancerous and form a tumor. Men can have the same types of breast cancer as women. Seventy percent of male breast cancers are a type called ductal carcinoma.

Breast cancer in men is rare, but about 2,350 men find out they have breast cancer each year. About 440 die of breast cancer each year. Like women's breast cancer, men's breast cancer can be cured or controlled if found early and treated right away.

Symptoms

The first symptom that most men notice is a painless lump. Other symptoms are:

  • Nipple discharge (clear or bloody)
  • Inverted nipple (pointing inward rather than outward)
  • Sores on the nipple or areola
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the underarms


Causes and Risk Factors

As with women, a man's risk of breast cancer rises with age. Other risk factors for male breast cancer are:

  • Estrogen use
  • Conditions linked to a rise of estrogen (such as cirrhosis, Klinefelter syndrome)
  • Having been exposed to radiation
  • Testicular injury
  • Mumps orchitis
  • Family history of breast cancer (male or female)
  • Family history of the BRCA2 mutation on chromosome 13q
  • Radiation exposure to the chest, such as for Hodgkin's disease
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Liver disease
  • Obesity

Men are unlikely to check their breasts on a routine basis and, when they notice symptoms, they are more likely than women to put off seeing a physician. Men with breast cancer are most often diagnosed at a later age than women; the normal age of diagnosis in men is 65.

The causes and methods of prevention for breast cancer are not clear. The best way to protect against breast cancer is finding and treating the disease at the earliest stage.

Diagnosis

There are many ways to prove a diagnosis of breast cancer:

  • Biopsies including needle localized breast biopsies, such as core needle biopsy or fine needle biopsy. For biopsies, a small piece of the tumor is removed and looked at under a microscope by a pathologist.
  • Clinical exam performed by healthcare staff
  • Ultrasound to pinpoint where the tumor is

In some cases, a mammogram may be performed after a lump is found.

Treatments

Treatment of male breast cancer, like that for women, depends on the patient's age, health and the type and stage of cancer. The stage is determined by the size of the tumor and whether it is in the breast, has reached the lymph nodes of the armpit (axilla) or has spread (metastasized) to the liver, brain, lungs or bones.

Oncologists could suggest one treatment or a multiple forms of treatments. Treatment often starts with surgery, which can be followed up by radiation, chemotherapy or hormone therapy. More treatments after surgery are decided on a case-by-case basis and depend on the person’s health, age and other factors.