Where Breast Cancer Starts
Breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast. Most breast cancers begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple . Some start in the glands that make breast milk . Men have these ducts and glands, too, even though they aren’t normally functional. There are also types of breast cancer that start in other types of breast cells, but these are less common.
Although many types of breast cancer can cause a lump in the breast, not all do. There are other symptoms of breast cancer you should watch for and report to a health care provider.
Its also important to understand that most breast lumps are benign and not cancer . Benign breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast and they are not life threatening. Any breast lump or change needs to be checked by a health care provider to determine whether it is benign or malignant and whether it might impact your future cancer risk.
How Often Do Men Get Breast Cancer
The risk of breast cancer in men is extremely low, and the chances of a fatal diagnosis are even lower. approximately 530 men are expected to die from breast cancer in 2021.
Doctors used to believe instances of breast cancer in men were more severe than instances in women. However, the reality is the severity of the condition is the same, but men are less likely to be diagnosed during the early stages of the disease.
Some men will be more likely to get breast cancer than others. Genetic conditions like Klinefelters syndrome raise the risk of male breast cancer, as does a history of male cancers in the family.
Other factors which increase risk include:
- Breast cancer in a close female relative
- History of exposure to radiation in the chest
- Enlarged breasts caused by hormonal or drug treatments
- Oestrogen supplementation
- Damage to the testicles caused by injury, mumps orchitis, or undescended testicles
What Is The Treatment For Male Breast Cancer
Different types of treatment are available for men with breast cancer. Some treatments are standard , and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Many of today’s standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward. Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Five types of standard treatment are used to treat men with breast cancer:
Surgery for men with breast cancer is usually a modified radical mastectomy .
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Special Types Of Invasive Breast Carcinoma
There are some special types of breast cancer that are sub-types of invasive carcinoma. They are much less common than the breast cancers named above.
Some of these may have a better or worse prognosis than standard infiltrating ductal carcinoma.
- Adenoid cystic carcinoma
- Low-grade adenosquamous carcinoma
- Medullary carcinoma
- Metaplastic carcinoma
- Micropapillary carcinoma
Men Too Can Have Breast Cancer: Hear It From A Survivor
He was a chubby teenager, with a prominent right breast, and everyone told him the chubbiness would go away with age. The ignorance led to the 45-year-old telecom engineer, Sanjay Goel, ignoring the symptoms that later led to a full-blown breast cancer.
I always had warning signs coming at 24, I noticed fluid discharge from my right breast and by age 30 there was a lump, however only when bleeding happened I decided to consult a doctor, says Goel.
As luck would have it, Goels doctor also did not pick up the warning sign either, and put him on a course of antibiotic. After taking antibiotics, the symptoms subsided temporarily but returned after almost a year. He again asked me to repeat the medicines. I changed my doctor when I developed pain in my breast, he says.
Goel consulted a family friend who was a surgeon. It was in 2010. He looked worried and asked me to get a specialized test Fine needle aspiration cytology , done. The result was positive for cancer, so I underwent a surgery, he says.
The biopsy also confirmed stage-II cancer that was spreading.
For me cancer meant death so for a couple of hours after we saw the reports, my wife and I just sat silent without uttering a word. It was difficult to accept for me as I used to lead a pretty healthy lifestyle. In fact, I was big-time into Yoga, so the diagnosis was a shocker, he says.
After the usual chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Goel was put on hormone therapy that is still on.
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Loved Ones Of Male Breast Cancer Patients
The news and implications of a breast cancer diagnosis are not only challenging for the man going through it, but also for those closest to them, such as the mans partner, family and close friends. The mans loved ones may experience a range of emotions, such as shock, fear, worry, powerlessness and may not know what to say. There may be concerns about finances or changes in the dynamics of relationships breast cancer treatment can also impact on the mans sexual wellbeing.
If you are man diagnosed with breast cancer, you may want to start by telling your family and a few close friends about your diagnosis, which may help you become familiar with other peoples reactions. After you feel more comfortable and confident talking about your diagnosis, you may wish to let others know.
Further information and support are also available for carers of men diagnosed with breast cancer.
Types Of Breast Cancer In Men
The most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, and invasive lobular carcinoma.
Most breast cancers are carcinomas. In fact, breast cancers are often a type of carcinoma called adenocarcinoma, which starts in cells that make glands . Breast adenocarcinomas start in the ducts or the lobules .
There are other, less common, types of breast cancers, too, such as sarcomas, phyllodes, Pagets disease and angiosarcomas which start in the cells of the muscle, fat, or connective tissue.
Sometimes a single breast tumor can be a combination of different types. And in some very rare types of breast cancer, the cancer cells may not form a lump or tumor at all.
When a biopsy is done to find out the specific type of breast cancer, the pathologist also will say if the cancer has spread in to the surrounding tissues. The name of the breast cancer type will change depending on the extent of the cancer.
- In situ breast cancers have not spread.
- Invasive or infiltrating cancers have spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
These general kinds of breast cancer can be further described with the terms outlined above.
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How Does A Breast Cancer Lump Feel Like In Men
Men can check the lump in their breasts by themselves and observe the following signs that are typical of cancer:
- The breast lump feels hard and is painless
- The breast lump is irregular in shape
- The breast lump does not move within the breast
Other signs and symptoms that point toward breast cancer include
- Retracted nipple
- Redness or soreness around the nipple that does subside within one to two weeks
- Oozing from the breast nipple , which may be bloody
- Small bumps in the armpit
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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Causes Of Breast Cancer In Men
The exact cause of breast cancer in men is not known, but there are some things that increase your risk of getting it.
- genes and family history inheriting faulty versions of genes called BRCA1 or BRCA2 increases your risk of breast cancer
- conditions that can increase the level of oestrogen in the body including obesity, Klinefelter syndrome and scarring of the liver
- previous radiotherapy to the chest area
It’s not certain that you can do anything to reduce your risk, but eating a balanced diet, losing weight if you’re overweight and not drinking too much alcohol may help.
Page last reviewed: 18 March 2020 Next review due: 18 March 2023
Diagnostic Imaging Methods And Differential Diagnosis
The majority of lesions in the male breast are benign and gynecomasty constitutes most of these lesions. Within these, less than 1% is primary breast cancer. Even though male breast is relatively small, mammography is technically feasible and adds useful information to clinical examination . In the presence of a clinically suspicious lesion, MG should be preferred over ultrasonography . Sensitivity and specificity of mammography are reported as 92% and 90%, respectively . A normal male breast is essentially composed of fat tissue and contains only a few secretory canals. It does not have Cooper ligaments, and has none or very little ductal and interlobular connective tissue. For that reason, it has a radiolucent appearance on mammography . The tumor is visualized on MG as a hyperdense, well defined, lobulated mass with spiculated margins or as a structural distortion. Microcalcification is observed less as compared to FBC its tendency of clustering is low, and generally appears as wide, round and dispersed calcifications.
Doyle et al. emphasized the radiologic and pathologic differences between male and female breast cancer in their review:
The incidence of invasive lobular cancer and in-situ disease are lower in men as compared to women.
Male breast cancer more frequently manifests itself as a locally advanced disease .
MBCs are more often localized in the subareolar area, whereas FBCs are localized in the upper outer quadrant.
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How Dangerous Is Breast Cancer For Males
Breast cancer among men, just like breast cancer among women, can differ in severity. Some men will be able to detect cancer quickly, have damaged cells removed, and receive treatment to send the disease into remission. Other men may not catch cancer early, because theyre less likely to recognise a problem in their breast than a woman. This is because women tend to do more regular self-breast examinations.
Breast cancer is more likely to respond successfully to treatment when the condition is found early, and the damaged cells can be removed. If cancer has a chance to spread to the lymph nodes, it can also metastasize to other areas of the body, causing higher risk levels.
Not all breast cancers are fatal, however. Some men can also suffer from tumours in the breast not caused by cancer, such as gynecomastia, which is an increase in the amount of male breast tissue which leads to a disk-like growth under the nipple and areola.
Gynecomastia is more common among teenage boys and older men due to changes in hormonal balance. In rare cases, gynecomastia can also occur as a result of diseases in the endocrine glands which cause the male body to produce more oestrogen.
If You Have Breast Cancer
If youre diagnosed with breast cancer youll be told if it is early breast cancer, also known as primary breast cancer, or if breast cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer.
Youll also be given more detailed information that will help your specialist team decide which treatments to recommend.
Youll be introduced to a breast care nurse who will talk to you about your diagnosis and treatment. They will offer you support and written information and can be a point of contact throughout your treatment and afterwards.
To find out more about the information and support we can offer, call our Helpline on 0808 800 6000.
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How To Treat Male Breast Cancer
If you’re diagnosed with male breast cancer, your treatment plan will depend on how far the cancer has spread. Practicing monthly self-breast exams, in addition to receiving a breast examination by your physician, could improve your chances of detecting breast abnormalities early. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.
Possible treatments for male breast cancer include:
- Testicular conditions
“Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent male breast cancer,” says Nicholas Jones, MD, FACS. “However, you can lower your risks by being active, and limiting your alcohol consumption.”
In addition, avoiding hormonal supplements, such as sexual performance enhancement supplements, may help to prevent male breast cancer. According to a 2019 study, the use of hormonal male enhancement supplements can lead to the higher levels of androgens, which may cause the growth of tumors.
Treatment Options For Male Breast Cancer By Stage
Breast cancer in men is treated the same as breast cancer in women.
Therapy given after an operation when cancer cells can no longer be seen is called adjuvant therapy. Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the operation, the patient may be given radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and/or targeted therapy after surgery, to try to kill any cancer cells that may be left.
Node-negative: For men whose cancer is node-negative , adjuvant therapy should be considered on the same basis as for a woman with breast cancer because there is no evidence that response to therapy is different for men and women.
Node-positive: For men whose cancer is node-positive , adjuvant therapy may include the following:
- Targeted therapy with a monoclonal antibody .
- Tamoxifen .
- Other hormone therapy.
These treatments appear to increase survival in men as they do in women. The patients response to hormone therapy depends on whether there are hormone receptors in the tumor. Most breast cancers in men have these receptors. Hormone therapy is usually recommended for male breast cancer patients, but it can have many side effects, including hot flashes and impotence .
Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer may include the following:
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What Are The Risk Factors
Several factors can increase a mans chance of getting breast cancer. Having risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer.
- Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers are found after age 50.
- Genetic mutations. Inherited changes in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, increase breast cancer risk.
- Family history of breast cancer. A mans risk for breast cancer is higher if a close family member has had breast cancer.
- Radiation therapy treatment. Men who had radiation therapy to the chest have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Hormone therapy treatment. Drugs containing estrogen , which were used to treat prostate cancer in the past, increase mens breast cancer risk.
- Klinefelter syndrome.Klinefelter syndromeexternal icon is a rare genetic condition in which a male has an extra X chromosome. This can lead to the body making higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens .
- Conditions that affect the testicles. Injury to, swelling in, or surgery to remove the testicles can increase breast cancer risk.
- Liver disease. Cirrhosis of the liver can lower androgen levels and raise estrogen levels in men, increasing the risk of breast cancer.
- Overweight and obesity. Older men who are overweight or have obesity have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than men at a normal weight.
Talk to your doctor about your familys history of cancer.
Whats The Difference Male Breast Cancer And Female Breast Cancer
Despite outward appearances, breasts in men and women are built very much the same. Human breasts in both sexes have nipples, fatty tissue, breast cells and ducts. Men and women also share some of the same risk factors for breast cancer. Both genders may have inherited mutations in their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that may increase cancer risk. And both genders produce the hormone estrogen, which at certain levels may increase breast cancer risk. So why do so few men get breast cancer?
In general, the incidence of breast cancer in men is far less than in women because although the breast tissue in both are similar, male breast tissue is mainly fat and fibrous tissue called stroma and they have fewer ducts and lobules, says Sramila Aithal, MD, Hematologist & Medical Oncologist at our Philadelphia hospital. When womens breasts mature during puberty, they develop working lobules and milk ducts to produce and carry milk after childbirth. Most breast cancers in women develop in those ducts and lobules. Most men produce far fewer and smaller ducts and may not produce lobules. Inherited gene mutations may increase cancer risk in both sexes, but are likely to affect genders differently. While BRCA mutations significantly increase a mans risk of breast cancer, men with those mutations are at a higher risk of prostate cancer more than breast or other cancers.
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