When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Male Breast Cancer
If you notice any symptoms of breast cancer, call your provider right away. Its essential to see your provider for an evaluation as early as possible. Early detection and treatment can greatly improve the prognosis.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Many men dont think breast cancer can happen to them. So they may not recognize signs when they appear. If you think something isnt right with your chest tissue, see your provider for an evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment can have a significant impact on the long-term prognosis. Be honest with your provider about your symptoms and how long youve had them. If you have any risk factors for male breast cancer, talk to your provider about how you can reduce your risk.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/15/2021.
How Is Breast Cancer Treated
As in women, treatment for breast cancer in men depends on how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Male Breast Cancer Treatment.external icon
When To See Your Gp
See your GP if you have:
- a lump in your breast
- any other worrying symptoms, such as nipple discharge
- a history of breast cancer in members of your family and you’re worried about your chances of getting it
It’s very unlikely you have cancer, but it’s best to get your symptoms checked. Your GP will examine your breast and can refer you for tests and scans for breast cancer if needed.
If you do not have symptoms but have a clear family history of breast cancer, your GP may refer you to a genetic specialist to discuss your risk of getting it.
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Paget Disease Of The Nipple
This type of breast cancer starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the nipple. It may also spread to the areola . The skin of the nipple usually appears crusted, scaly, and red, with areas of itching, oozing, burning, or bleeding. There may also be an underlying lump in the breast.
Paget disease may be associated with DCIS or with infiltrating ductal carcinoma. It is rare and accounts for about 1-3% of female breast cancers and a higher percentage of male breast cancers.
Statistics On Breast Cancer And Pain
A breast tumora hard clump of breast cancer cellsdoesn’t usually cause breast pain unless it reaches the size of 2 centimeters in diameter or greater. But a tumor can be larger than 2 centimeters and still not cause pain.
For many women, breast pain is not their reporting symptom. One study found that only 6% of women reported breast pain as their main symptom. While most women with breast cancer report that a breast lump was their main symptom, 1 in 6 report a different symptom, including breast pain.
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How Is Breast Cancer In Men Diagnosed
Your doctor will begin to make a diagnosis by asking about your symptoms, whether you have taken or are currently taking certain medications associated with breast cancer, and whether you have any other known risk factors. A breast exam is also an important part of diagnosis. Your doctor will visually examine and feel your chest/breasts for signs of breast cancer.
Additional tests are required for diagnosis. Your doctor may order imaging tests such as a mammogram, ultrasound, or a magnetic resonance imaging study of the affected breast. But to make a definitive diagnosis, a biopsy of the breast tissue is necessary. In this procedure, a small piece of breast tissue is removed, usually with a needle . A pathologist will analyze the tissue sample to check for the presence of cancer cells, and, if they are present, their hormone receptor and HER2 status.
If the biopsy confirms a diagnosis of breast cancer, your doctor will order more tests to see whether the cancer has spread beyond the breast. This is known as staging. It may involve additional imaging tests such as a chest X-ray, positron emission tomography , or a bone scan. In some cases, a sentinel lymph node biopsy is necessary.
Once your doctor has determined the size and type of tumor and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, he or she will assign the cancer to a stage. Staging helps doctors make a prognosis and design a patient-specific treatment plan.
If You Experience Pain Along With Any Of The Following Symptoms You Should Contact Your Physician
- Bloody or clear discharge from your nipple
- A new lump with the onset of the pain lump does not go away after your menstrual period
- Persistent, unexplained breast pain
- Signs of a breast infection, including local redness, pus, or fever
- Redness of the skin of the breast that may appear as a rash, with dilated pores, and possibly skin thickening.
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Is The Back The First Place For It To Spread
The most for breast cancer to spread to are:
- the lungs
- the bones
- the brain
As cancer cells rapidly grow out of control, they move into healthy tissues to form new tumors. This spread usually starts with the tissue nearest to where the cancer initially began. When this happens, people may start to experience symptoms in the new area.
When breast cancer spreads to the bones, it can affect:
- the ribs
Other signs that cancer is spreading include:
- headaches, dizziness, and possibly seizures if it involves the brain
- shortness of breath, which may indicate that it has spread to the lungs
- jaundice and abdominal swelling, when cancer spreads to the liver
A person can often treat back pain at home, but if it persists or gets worse, they should see their doctor.
Home care for back pain includes taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen.
However, a person should speak to their doctor before taking any medications, as these may interact with existing treatment.
Other treatments for advanced breast cancer include:
- hormonal therapies
- targeted therapy
These methods all aim to reduce the size of tumors or prevent them growing, help with symptoms, and extend someoneâs life.
What Can I Do To Reduce My Risk
If several members of your family have had breast or ovarian cancer, or one of your family members has a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, share this information with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you for genetic counseling. In men, mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can increase the risk of breast cancer, high-grade prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
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Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer In Men
The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a painless lump or thickening in the breast or chest area .
However, any change in the breast or nipple can be a warning sign of breast cancer in men including :
- Lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast, chest or underarm area
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling, puckering or redness of the skin of the breast
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge
These may also be signs of a benign breast condition.
Because men tend to have much less breast tissue than women, some of these signs can be easier to notice in men than in women.
What Does Shoulder Blade Pain Feel Like When Its Related To Breast Cancer
The type of pain you feel usually depends on whats causing it. Some people have shoulder pain due to nerve damage from radiation therapy or a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or lymph node removal.
If you have neuropathic pain, you may feel a shooting or burning sensation. Some people describe the discomfort as an intense tingling or itching feeling.
You might also experience sharp pain when you try to move your arms up or down. This pain can be accompanied by swelling, stiffness, or numbness.
If your pain is caused by cancer that has spread , it might feel like a deep, dull ache in your joints or bones. Pain near your right shoulder blade could mean that your liver is involved.
You may also feel depressed or anxious, and your sleep may be disrupted as a result of your pain. Not getting enough sleep may make your pain feel even worse.
Your shoulder is a complex, interconnected group of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. These structures work together to align your posture and help you move your arms.
Your scapula serves several important functions:
- It cups the ball-shaped end of the humerus bone in your upper arm.
- It serves as an attachment plate for several muscles and ligaments.
- It moves in several directions as you use your arms, providing stability and flexibility.
Other treatments damage the nerves around your shoulder blade, causing long-lasting pain in your shoulders, arms, hands, and feet.
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Gynecomastia Breast Cancer And Other Male Breast Concerns
While we usually think of women when we talk about breasts, men have breasts, too. Like women, men may cope with breast pain, breast enlargement, nipple pain, and even breast cancer.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be embarrassing for men to bring up concerns about their breasts. And men may not talk to other men about breast pain.
Let’s take a close look at some possible causes of breast pain or swelling in men, including when men may need to be concerned about male breast cancer.
Verywell / Emily Roberts
Metastatic Breast Cancer And Pain
Metastatic breast cancer may also cause pain. It could be from a larger tumorthese are often over 2 centimeters in diameteror pain in other regions of the body due to the spread of cancer. If breast cancer spreads to your bones, it may cause bone pain, or back pain with leg weakness. If cancer spreads to your brain, it may cause headaches.
If breast cancer travels to the adrenal glands, you may feel a dull back pain. If your breast cancer spreads to your liver, you could have pain in the upper right part of your abdomen and develop jaundice .
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What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Men
Because men dont have regular mammogram scans like women, physical signs of breast cancer are often the first indication a man notices. The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men include:
- Breast lump: A thickened area, lump or mass may grow on the breast, behind the nipple or in the armpit.
- Change in appearance: The breast tissue may look larger, puckered, misshapen or sunken. There may be a dimple or several small divots or pits, like the skin of an orange.
- Pain: You may have tenderness, sensitivity or pain in the breast tissue or underarm area. Instead, you may have a painless lump in the breast or armpit.
- Problems with the nipple: Clear fluid or bloody liquid may come out of the nipple. An inverted nipple can be another sign of breast cancer.
- Skin changes: Red, flaky or scaly skin may appear anywhere on the breast or nipple area. You may see ulcers on the skin.
Ductal Carcinoma In Situ
Ductal carcinoma in situ is considered non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer. In DCIS , cells that lined the ducts have changed to look like cancer cells. The difference between DCIS and invasive cancer is that the cells have not spread through the walls of the ducts into the surrounding tissue of the breast . DCIS is considered a pre-cancer because some cases can go on to become invasive cancers. Right now, though, there is no good way to know for certain which cases will go on to become invasive cancers and which ones wont. DCIS accounts for about 1 in 10 cases of breast cancer in men. It is almost always curable with surgery.
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Does Breast Pain Increase Breast Cancer Risk
Though it’s uncommon, there are some painful breast conditions that may raise your risk of developing breast cancer. Both radial scars and multiple or complex fibroadenomas increase your risk of breast cancer Many breast conditions which cause pain pose little to no increased risk of breast cancer. Duct ectasia does not increase the risk of developing breast cancer, and while simple fibroadenomas do not increase the risk of breast cancer, complex fibroadenomas only slightly increase the risk.
Outlook For Breast Cancer In Men
The outlook for breast cancer in men varies depending on how far it has spread by the time it’s diagnosed.
It may be possible to cure breast cancer if it’s found early.
A cure is much less likely if the cancer is found after it has spread beyond the breast. In these cases, treatment can relieve your symptoms and help you live longer.
Speak to your breast care nurse if you’d like to know more about the outlook for your cancer.
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Can Shoulder Blade Pain Be A Symptom Of Breast Cancer
Pain is not a common symptom of breast cancer. However, breast cancer that has metastasized can sometimes cause shoulder blade pain.
One of the most common locations for breast cancer metastasis is in the bones. Pain can be related to the cancer itself or fractures that happen when bones weaken.
Bladder, prostate, thyroid, uterus, lung, and kidney cancers can also spread to your bones. Lung and kidney cancers are also known to spread to the shoulder joint and shoulder blade.
It is also possible that pain near your right shoulder could be an indication that breast cancer has spread to your liver, because some of the nerve networks around the liver originate from the same nerves that attach near your right shoulder blade.
If youve had breast cancer in the past, and youre now experiencing shoulder pain, its a good idea to see a doctor about it as soon as possible. If it is a cancer relapse, treatment may help slow the cancers growth, relieve your symptoms, and protect your bones.
Yes. If youve had chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, you may have pain around your shoulder blade because of those treatments.
Treating Breast Cancer In Men
Treatment for breast cancer in men largely depends on how far the cancer has spread.
Most hospitals use multidisciplinary teams to treat men with breast cancer. These are teams of specialists who work together to make decisions about the best way to proceed with your treatment.
Before visiting hospital to discuss your treatment options, you may find it useful to write a list of questions you’d like to ask the specialist. For example, you could ask about the advantages and disadvantages of particular treatments.
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Brca2 Inherited Gene Mutations And Cancer Risk
Men who have a BRCA2 inherited gene mutation, and to a lesser degree men who have a BRCA1 inherited gene mutation, have an increased risk of breast cancer .
For example, the lifetime risk of breast cancer is :
- About 50-80 in 1,000 men with a BRCA2 inherited gene mutation
- About 12 in 1,000 men with a BRCA1 inherited gene mutation
- About 1 in 769 men in the general population
Men who have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation also have an increased risk for prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and melanoma .
Other inherited gene mutations are under study for a possible link to breast cancer in men .
Learn more about BRCA2 inherited gene mutations and cancer risk in men.
For a summary of research studies on BRCA1/2 inherited gene mutations and cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
BRCA2 inherited gene mutations and genetic testing
While 5-10 percent of breast cancers in women are thought to be due to inherited gene mutations, up to 40 percent of breast cancers in men may be related to BRCA2 inherited gene mutations alone . This means men who get breast cancer are more likely to have an inherited gene mutation than women who get breast cancer.
Your health care provider can recommend a genetic counselor so you can learn more about genetic testing.
Breast Pain Not Linked To Periods
Its often unclear what causes non-cyclical breast pain.
It can be related to:
- a benign breast condition
- previous surgery to the breast
- injury to the breast
- having larger breasts
- a side effect from a drug treatment, such as certain antidepressant drugs and some herbal remedies such as ginseng
Stress and anxiety can also be linked to breast pain.
Non-cyclical breast pain may be continuous or it may come and go. It can affect women before and after the menopause.
The pain can be in one or both breasts and can affect the whole breast or a specific area. It may be a burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness.
Non-cyclical breast pain often goes away by itself over time. This happens in about half the women who experience it.