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 invade nearby tissues and spread 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

  • Being exposed to radiation

  • 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 susceptibility genes (BRCA-1 and BRCA-2)

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, such as 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. Following are the most common treatments for male breast cancer:

  • Surgery. In most cases, the surgeon removes the entire breast containing the tumor. He or she may also remove nearby lymph nodes.

  • 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 are used to attack and kill cancer cells and limit the damage to healthy cells.

Possible complications of male breast cancer

  • Cancer spreading (metastasis) from the breast to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, and bones

  • Death


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

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

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