Male Breast Cancer
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Male Breast Cancer - Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Aug 27, 2021 and last reviewed on Jul 17, 2023   -  4 min read


Male breast cancer is a rare condition that may get unnoticed easily. This article explains this condition in detail.

Male Breast Cancer - Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Cancer is a clinical condition characterized by the abnormal growth of cells. Breast cancer occurs due to the abnormal growth of breast cells. This has the potential to spread to various other parts of the body. Although females have more chances to get it, some male patients may also develop it.

Gynecomastia is another clinical condition where there is an increase in the normal breast cells and breast size. This can be due to weight gain, any drug consumption, etc.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms are similar to that of women with breast cancer. The following symptoms can be indicative of breast cancer and require consultation and examination with a physician.

  • Presence of lump in the breast.

  • Inverted nipple or nipple placed inward.

Do Men Have Breast?

Yes, men do have breast tissue. The only difference is the amount of tissue. There is an equal amount of breast tissue in both the boys and girls before puberty. But after puberty, the change occurs. Breast tissues are made up of milk-producing cells. Women have more breast tissue because of the hormones in them. Men taking certain hormone supplements may also develop breast tissue, or it can be environmental.

The following types of breast cancer can be found in men:

  • Lobular carcinoma initiating from the milk-producing glands.

  • Ductal carcinoma - It is early cancer that initiates in the milk ducts.

  • Paget’s disease begins in the breast ducts and later spreads to the nipple.

  • Inflammatory breast cancer makes the breast tissue red. This type is rarely seen.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Following are the basic risk factors:

1. Elderly are more prone to develop it.

2.Genetic or Hereditary: Commonly found genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

3. Weight gain.

4.Hormone Exposure: Those taking hormone-based drugs are more prone to develop it.

5. Klinefelter Syndrome: There is an extra copy of the X chromosome, which may lead to female features in the male. Also, they are at more risk of developing it.

6.Heavy Alcohol Usage: Consumption of excessive alcohol can lead to altered estrogen or high estrogen levels, making you prone to develop breast cancer.

7. Liver Diseases (Liver Cirrhosis): Liver damage can cause a reduction of male hormones and thus, lead to an increase in estrogen levels.

8. Testicles Surgery: Any damage to the testicles can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

9.Exposure to Radiation: Radiation is directly linked to breast cancer. Any type of radiation exposure to the chest can lead to this type of cancer.

What Is the Prevalence of Breast Cancer in Males?

As of now, we know that breast cancer is rare in men; still, there are chances to occur. Less than 1 percent of breast cancer is seen in males. The risk factor of developing it in males is 1 in 1000.

The main reason for reduced incidence in males is their breast ducts which are the main initiation center of breast cancer. These ducts are less or poorly developed in males and well developed in females. The second factor is the female hormone: estrogen. This hormone acts as fuel for the growth of breast cancer tissue. Females have higher levels of estrogen than males.

How Can the Risk Factors Be Minimized?

Certain risk factors like genetics, family history, and age cannot be controlled. But the following factors can be controlled and maintained:

  • Manage your body weight and prevent obesity.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Limit or avoid the consumption of alcohol.

If you have a family history, get yourself examined for BRCA1, BRCA2, and other genes. Also, talk to a genetic counselor about it.

How Can It Be Diagnosed?

When you visit your physician, you will be asked about your personal history, followed by certain examinations. Initially, you will be examined physically for the presence of any lump or swollen lymph nodes, and tissue changes, etc.

Later you will be asked to get certain lab tests like blood tests, genetic testing like BRCA1, etc. Following that, an ultrasound may be required, and in major cases, MRI or CT can also be used.

If required, a biopsy will be done in which the lump will be removed, or a small part of the affected tissue will be removed and sent for histopathological examination.

Using all the above tests, your physician will diagnose the condition, and if it is cancer, it will be graded and staged. This will help in deciding the treatment plan and also the prognosis of the condition.

What Are the Available Treatment Options?

Cancer treatment depends on various factors like age, staging, type, and extent of cancer, size of cancerous tissue, etc.

The initial treatment can be a lumpectomy, in which the breast lump is removed followed by a biopsy. In other cases, where the tumor is severe, the treatment can be a surgery where the affected tissues and the lymph nodes may be removed. Apart from these, chemotherapy or radiotherapy can be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or kill remnant cancerous cells post-surgery.

Chemotherapy includes the use of certain drugs that aim at killing cancerous cells or limiting their growth and replication. Radiotherapy uses certain radiation to kill or limit cancerous cells.

You must go for regular check-ups to keep a check on the healing process and prevent any recurrence of the cancerous tissues.


Breast cancer in males is rare, but still, it can develop. The symptoms are similar to that of women. Since male breast cancer also has chances of going unnoticed, it is important to know in detail about this condition to prevent it from occurring or help in early diagnosis and treatment.

Online medical platforms have made this process of consulting a specialist or a physician easy. Hence you can consult a specialist online to know more about this.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Initial Signs and Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer?

Painless growth or lump in the breast is usually the initial symptom noticed by an affected individual. The lump can sometimes be painful. Skin changes on the affected breast, lump in the armpit on the affected side, retracted nipple, and abnormal nipple discharge are associated symptoms of breast cancer.


Where Does the Male Breast Cancer Grow?

Male breast cancer grows in the breast tissues and ducts.


Which Age Group Men Are at the Increased Risk of Breast Cancer?

Men of all age groups can be at risk of breast cancer, but the risk increases in older men between 60 to 70 years of age.


Does a Lump in the Male Breast Always Indicate Cancer?

A lump in the male breast does not necessarily indicate the presence of cancer. Breast lumps in males can also be due to benign cysts, lipoma (fat cyst), or gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in males) which are not quite serious compared to breast cancer.


How Susceptible Are Men to Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer in men is rare, with male breast cancer accounting for less than 1% of all the breast cancers.


How to Check for Breast Cancer in Men?

Breast cancer in men can be identified by palpating the breasts and the armpit to feel for any lump or swelling with or without pain. Further diagnostic tests like mammograms, ultrasound scans, biopsies, etc., help in the diagnosis.


Where Does Breast Cancer Initially Spread?

Breast cancer initially spreads to the nearby lymph nodes (axillary), followed by collarbones, ribs, spine, pelvis, and organs such as the brain, lungs, and liver.


Does Male Breast Cancer Grow Fast?

The growth rate of male breast cancer differs with the person, nature of cancer cells, type of cancer, staging, and health condition of the individual. Inflammatory breast cancer is a fast-growing type of cancer.


How Is Male Breast Cancer Staged?

Male breast cancer is staged into five stages.
Stage 0 - Cancer confined within the ducts.
Stage 1 - Relatively small cancer that either has not spread or the presence of a tiny area of cancer spread in the sentinel lymph node.
Stage 2 - Larger than stage 1 cancer or has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 3 - Cancer growing into the nearby skin, muscle and has spread to many lymph nodes.
Stage 4 - Cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to reach different parts of the body.


Do Male Breast Cancer Lumps Cause Pain?

Male breast cancer lumps may or may not be painful. So whether a lump is painful or not, it can be indicative of breast cancer until and unless a breast lump of less serious origin is confirmed.


How Aggressive Is Male Breast Cancer?

Male breast cancer is rare and aggressive, especially inflammatory breast cancer, due to its fast growth rate.


How to Differentiate Between Gynecomastia and Breast Cancer?

Gynecomastia can be differentiated from male breast cancer with symmetry. In gynecomastia, both breasts are equally enlarged symmetrically, but in the case of breast cancer, only the affected breast shows changes such as swelling, lump, skin changes, rash, retracted nipple, pain, discharge, etc.


What Ways Help a Man Get Rid of Breast Lumps?

While breast lumps of less severe origin tend to vanish away on their own with time, removal of the breast lump through surgery is the only way to get rid of breast lumps.


Will a Man With Breast Cancer Die?

Men with early-stage breast cancer are more likely to die of cancer than women with early-stage breast cancer. Approximately men with early-stage breast cancer survived for about 6 years after the diagnosis.


Can Male Breast Cancer Be Cured Successfully?

Although breast cancer cannot be cured permanently, treatment options like surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormone therapy help prolong the life of an affected individual. High survival rates are possible in people with breast cancer diagnosed in the early stages.


What Is the Recovery Period for Male Breast Cancer?

The recovery period after male breast cancer treatment depends upon the cancer stage and the type of treatment procedure. Usually, after a breast cancer surgery like mastectomy, it usually takes six to eight weeks to recover. Frequent chemo and radiotherapy sessions might also follow the surgery.

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Last reviewed at:
17 Jul 2023  -  4 min read




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