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How Do Men Get Breast Cancer

How Dangerous Is Breast Cancer For Males

Men Get Breast Cancer Too

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.

Male Breast Cancer Symptoms Diagnosis And Treatment

Symptoms of breast cancer in men are usually similar to those in women. Most conditions can cause things like a loss of appetite and hair, nausea, and pain. The treatment used to overcome various kinds of breast cancer can also cause side effects.

Most diagnoses of male breast cancer are given after a man finds a lump in their chest. However, many men avoid going to the doctor until they have more severe symptoms, which may indicate the spreading of cancer. The same techniques used to diagnose breast cancer in women are used for men, including physical exams, biopsies, and even mammography.

Once cancer is detected, treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: Typical treatment options for men often include a mastectomy, where the breast tissue is removed. Breast-conserving surgery in which only the affected tumour is removed is also possible.
  • Radiation therapy: Treatment with radioactive rays or particles can help to kill off cancer cells missed by the surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: With chemotherapy, drugs are administered by mouth or injection to attack remaining cancer cells. You may have chemotherapy following surgery to lower the risk of the cancer returning.
  • Hormone therapy: Some forms of cancer may require certain hormones to grow. Hormone therapy blocks the effect of the hormones, which can stop the cancers growth. Hormone therapy often works better in men than women, because 90% of mens cancers are hormone-receptor-positive.

Can I Prevent Male Breast Cancer

You may not be able to prevent breast cancer. But you can lower your risk of developing the disease by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding excess alcohol and getting plenty of exercise.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor. You may consider genetic testing to see if you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation. These gene changes increase your risk of breast cancer. People with these gene changes should visit their healthcare provider regularly and get frequent cancer screenings.

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Yes Men Do Get Breast Cancer

There is a lot of awareness around breast cancer in women and rightly so, as it is one of the top female cancers in South Africa and carries a lifetime risk of one in 25.

However, there is a distinct lack of awareness of the fact that men can also get breast cancer. While the risk is significantly lower and incidences are rare, it is in fact becoming more common.

The issue is that it is often diagnosed late, because men simply do not think that they could have breast cancer, which increases the mortality rate and has implications on treatment.

Men need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and ensure that they have the right medical and gap cover in place to protect them from financial hardship.

If The Cancer Has Spread Beyond The Breast

Can men get breast cancer, how common is it and how do you ...

Some men are diagnosed with cancer that has already spread. Or the cancer might come back and spread some time after treatment. This is called secondary breast cancer, advanced breast cancer, or metastatic breast cancer.

In this situation your doctor might recommend:

  • chemotherapy

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What Causes Male Breast Cancer

Anyone can get breast cancer. Overall health, family history and genetic factors increase the risk of developing the disease. Risk factors of male breast cancer include:

  • Age: Men over 60 are more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Overall health: Men with obesity may have gynecomastia . Gynecomastia increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Estrogen levels: Certain drugs that contain estrogen cause estrogen levels to rise. Cirrhosis can also increase estrogen levels. A genetic disorder called Klinefelter syndrome increases the risk of several health issues, including breast cancer.
  • Family history: Men who have a first-degree relative with breast cancer have a higher chance of the disease.
  • Genes: Genetic mutations increase the risk of developing breast cancer. These include changes in the BRCA gene . Mutations in these genes also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
  • Radiation therapy: Men who had radiation therapy in the chest or torso have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Testicular issues: People who have had surgery to remove their testicles have a higher risk of breast cancer. Testicle injuries also increase the risk.

Treatment Of Breast Cancer In Men

If you are diagnosed with male breast cancer, the treatment that is recommended for you will depend on many different factors, including the type of breast cancer that you have, the extent of cancer spread, your health and personal preferences.

Treatment options for men with breast cancer include:

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Personal Stories From Men With Breast Cancer

While 144 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, it can be isolating being diagnosed with what is considered a ‘women’s cancer’. It may help to read stories from other men with breast cancer to know you are not alone. Read stories from men with breast cancer, or connect with other men in a similar situation on BCNA’s online network.

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ

How to Check for the Signs of Male Breast Cancer | Lorraine

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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If Cancer Is Found Tests Are Done To Study The Cancer Cells

  • How quickly the cancer may grow.
  • How likely it is that the cancer will spread through the body.
  • How well certain treatments might work.
  • How likely the cancer is to recur .

Tests include the following:

What Is The Outlook For Men With Breast Cancer

The prognosis for men who have breast cancer depends on the tumors size and if it has spread. These are reflected in the cancer stage. In general, a higher stage indicates a worse prognosis. Early diagnosis can improve the outlook significantly. But because men dont get regular breast cancer screenings like women, the first sign of cancer is usually a lump. By that time, the cancer has often spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body.

Healthcare providers measure cancer outlook by the five-year survival rate. Overall, the survival rate for male breast cancer is 84%. The survival rate for men with breast cancer that has not spread beyond the original tumor is 97%. For men with cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the survival rate is about 22%.

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What Are The Types Of Male Breast Cancer

Breast cancer in men usually begins in the breast ducts. Ducts are tubes that carry milk to the nipple. Although men have milk ducts and glands that create milk, they dont work like the ducts and milk-producing glands in women.

The types of male breast cancer include:

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma: Cancer begins in the breast ducts and spreads to other parts of the breast. Cancer cells may also spread to other areas of the body. Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer in people regardless of gender.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma: Cancer begins in the lobules . Lobular breast cancer can also spread to other parts of the body.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ : Cancer cells grow in the lining of the breast ducts. They have not spread to other parts of the breast or the rest of the body. Ductal carcinoma in situ is uncommon in men.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer: Usually a type of invasive ductal carcinoma, inflammatory breast cancer is very rare in men. The breast tissue is swollen and red. It feels warm to the touch, and the skin may be dimpled, but there is no lump.
  • Pagets disease of the nipple: Cancer cells grow in the ducts and spread to the nipple and the area around the nipple. Pagets disease of the nipple is also called Pagets disease of the breast or mammary Paget disease.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer The Truth About Male Breast Cancer

Men can get breast cancer too

Can men get breast cancer? This is a common question coming up during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also known as Pink October. Men do have breast tissue, so it is possible for a man to get breast cancer.

While a womans breast tissue grows and develops during puberty, a mans doesnt. However, the presence of breast tissue in males means men can still get breast cancer.

Breast cancer in men is rare. Around 1% of all breast cancer cases happen in males, and in 2021, around 2560 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer. The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer as a man is approximately 1 in 833. Comparatively, the lifetime risk of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 8.

In the spirit of raising awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, lets explore the truth about male breast cancer.

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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.

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.


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What Are The Stages Of Male Breast Cancer

After diagnosing breast cancer, providers classify the disease using a process called staging. Providers measure the tumor and look at its location. They determine whether the tumor has spread to lymph nodes, surrounding breast tissue or other parts of your body. Lymph nodes are small organs that move fluid through the body and help protect you from illness.

To gather this information, your provider may order tests such as a sentinel node biopsy, PET scan or CT scan. These tests allow your cancer care team to determine the disease stage.

The stages of male breast cancer are:

Stage 0: Cancer cells are only in the ducts. Cancer has not spread to other breast tissue.

Stage I: The tumor is small and hasnt spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage II: One of these is true:

  • The tumor is smaller than 20 millimeters and has spread to a few axillary lymph nodes. Axillary nodes are lymph nodes in the armpit.
  • The tumor is 20 mm to 50 mm across and has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes . Or the tumor is 20 mm to 50 mm and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes .
  • The tumor is larger than 50 mm and has not spread to a few axillary lymph nodes.

Stage III: Cancer has spread typically to several lymph nodes. Cancer cells may also be in the chest wall or skin. It has not spread to other areas of the body away from the breast.

Stage IV: Cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body away from the breast. Cancer can spread to all areas of the body, including the lungs, bones, liver or brain.

What Are Risk Factors For Breast Cancer In Men

Men can get breast cancer, too

A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. Risk factors for a certain type of cancer might include smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. The exact cause of someones cancer may not be known. But risk factors can make it more likely for a person to have cancer.

Things you should know about risk factors for cancer:

  • Risk factors can increase a person’s risk, but they do not necessarily cause the disease.

  • Some people with 1 or more risk factors never develop cancer. Other people can develop cancer and have no risk factors.

  • Some risk factors are very well known. But there is ongoing research about risk factors for many types of cancer.

Some risk factors, such as family history, may not be in your control. But others may be things you can change. Knowing the risk factors can help you make choices that might lower your risk. For example, if an unhealthy diet is a risk factor, you may choose to eat healthy foods. If excess weight is a risk factor, your healthcare provider may check your weight or help you lose weight.

Risk factors for breast cancer in men include:

  • Female relatives with breast cancer

  • A breast cancer 2 gene mutation in the family

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Check Yourself For Male Breast Cancer

How to Check Yourself for Male Breast Cancer Male Breast Self-Exam

1. Check each breast one at a time.

2. Use your right hand fingers to check

your left breast, and your left hand

fingers to check your right breast.

3. With your fingers flat against the

breast press firmly in small, clockwise circles.

4. Start at the outermost top edge of your breast

and spiral towards the nipple.

5. Feel for hard lumps or bumps in your breast.

6. Be certain to cover all parts of your breast.

7. Gently squeeze both nipples and look for any discharge.

8. Look carefully for changes in the size, shape,

and contour of each breast, e.g., puckering,

dimpling, or changes in skin texture.When is the best time to perform the MBSE?

During or right after a warm shower or bath

Warm, soapy water relaxes and smoothes the skin,

making the MBSE easier to perform

Remember to do the MBSE once a month

What are the symptoms?

A hard, painless lump in the breast tissue

Pain in the breast

Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin

Discharge from the nipple

However, remember that most breast lumps in men are due to gynecomastia and not cancer.


1. Are you between the ages of 10 and 25 and have swelling under the nipple? Hormone changes of adolescence may bring about GYNECOMASTIA, benign swelling of the male breast. Gynecomastia is usually benign and lasts for a few months. See your doctor if youre concerned or if the mass keeps growing.


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