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.
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.
What Is Breast Cancer In Men
Breast cancer occurs mainly in women, but men can get it, too. Many people do not realize that men have breast tissue and that they can develop breast cancer. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer and can spread to other areas.
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant if the cells can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to distant areas of the body.
To learn more about how cancers start and spread, see Cancer Basics.
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When Should You Call The Doctor
Pick up the phone right away if you notice any of the signs above. If breast cancer is causing your symptoms, tests can help your doctor spot it early, improving your chances for successful treatment. Guys with the disease tend to get diagnosed when their cancer is in a later stage, which can make it harder to treat.
So, if you notice a lump in your breast or any other symptoms that concern you, donât wait for them to go away on their own. Call your doctor, even if the possibility of having breast cancer makes you uncomfortable. Thereâs nothing to feel embarrassed about.
Let your doctor know if you have close relatives with breast cancer. It runs in families, so that could increase your odds.
But remember, having one or more of the symptoms doesnât necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Itâs not common for guys to get this disease, especially if youâre under 60. Overall, less than 1% of all breast cancer cases happen in men.
Other conditions could be to blame for your symptoms. Your doctor can find out for sure.
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.
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Treatments For Breast Cancer In Men
The treatment for breast cancer in men depends on how far the cancer has spread.
Possible treatments include:
- surgery to remove the affected breast tissue and nipple and some of the glands in your armpit
- radiotherapy where radiation is used to kill cancer cells
- chemotherapy where cancer medicine is used to kill cancer cells
- other medicines that help stop breast cancer growing including tamoxifen and trastuzumab
Many men have surgery followed by 1 or more of the other treatments. This can help stop the cancer coming back in the future.
Read more about treatments for breast cancer in men.
Sharing Your Diagnosis With Others
You might find it difficult to tell others about your diagnosis. If so, it can be helpful to start by telling your family and close friends first. This will help you become familiar with peoples responses and reactions. As breast cancer in men is rare, you may find that people want to ask you questions. You may like to have a few answers prepared.
Many people who are diagnosed with cancer find that it affects their friendships. Sadly, this usually happens when friends and family dont know how to cope with the news. Sometimes, a person you thought would be there for you will respond by stepping back. At other times, the opposite happens, and people who you do not have regular contact with you may respond by making contact and offering help. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to respond to breast cancer. Just find what works for you, your family and your friends.
Seek out support that is available to you like family, friends, doctors and nurses. Ask lots of questions and get as much information as you can to understand the disease. I found reading online forums, books and pamphlets helpful. Matthew
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Symptoms Of Male Breast Cancer
Men should be aware of the shape, size, and feel of their breasts. This can help you detect signs of breast cancer early. Symptoms include:
- A lump, or mass, in your breast tissue. This can feel round, like a marble, or flat, like a button. The lump could be sore or painless.
- Changes in the shape or size of your breast.
- A dimple in the skin of your breast.
- An inverted nipple.
- Pain in your nipple, breast, or surrounding area, such as lymph nodes under your arm.
- Red, rough, or itchy skin on your nipple or areola.
- Nipple discharge.
If you have breast cancer that has spread to your lymph nodes, you could find other lumps. These could be on the side of your breast, under your arm, or by your collarbone.
How Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer Diagnosed
Inflammatory breast cancer can be difficult to diagnose. Often, there is no lump that can be felt during a physical exam or seen in a screening mammogram. In addition, most women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer have dense breast tissue, which makes cancer detection in a screening mammogram more difficult. Also, because inflammatory breast cancer is so aggressive, it can arise between scheduled screening mammograms and progress quickly. The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer may be mistaken for those of mastitis, which is an infection of the breast, or another form of locally advanced breast cancer.
To help prevent delays in diagnosis and in choosing the best course of treatment, an international panel of experts published guidelines on how doctors can diagnose and stage inflammatory breast cancer correctly. Their recommendations are summarized below.
Minimum criteria for a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer include the following:
- A rapid onset of erythema , edema , and a peau d’orange appearance and/or abnormal breast warmth, with or without a lump that can be felt.
- The above-mentioned symptoms have been present for less than 6 months.
- The erythema covers at least a third of the breast.
- Initial biopsy samples from the affected breast show invasive carcinoma.
Imaging and staging tests include the following:
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What Is A Normal Breast
No breast is typical. What is normal for you may not be normal for another woman. Most women say their breasts feel lumpy or uneven. The way your breasts look and feel can be affected by getting your period, having children, losing or gaining weight, and taking certain medications. Breasts also tend to change as you age. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Breast Changes and Conditions.external icon
Can Male Breast Cancer Be Prevented Or Avoided
Men cannot prevent or avoid breast cancer. The American Academy of Family Physicians does not recommend breast cancer screening for men. However, men should talk to their doctor if they are at high risk for breast cancer. Their doctor might suggest genetic testing or a mammogram.
Factors that can increase the risk of male breast cancer include:
- Risk of cancer increases with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average age of men diagnosed with breast cancer is between 60 and 70 years old.
- A family history of breast cancer and/or mutations of the BRCA gene increase risk.
- High levels of estrogen. This could be a result of genes, certain medicines, or hormone treatments. Men who are overweight or alcoholic also might have more estrogen.
- Men who have radiation exposure to their chest area could develop breast cancer.
- This is a benign condition in which a mans breasts are larger than normal. In turn, they have more breast tissue and are at risk of breast cancer.
- Klinefelter syndrome. Men who have this genetic disorder have two or more X chromosomes, along with a Y chromosome. Klinefelter syndrome is a birth defect. Men who have it can have enlarged breasts, as well as other traits.
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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.
What Do Lumps In My Breast Mean
Many conditions can cause lumps in the breast, including cancer. But most breast lumps are caused by other medical conditions. The two most common causes of breast lumps are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts. Fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, tender, and sore. Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast.
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Family Members With Breast Cancer Or A Breast Cancer Gene
Men who have female relatives with breast cancer have an increased risk of breast cancer, especially if the women are close relatives . The risk also increases if the women were diagnosed at a young age . Men, as well as women, can inherit faulty genes that increase the risk of breast cancer.
Around 2 in 100 breast cancers diagnosed in women are thought to be due directly to an inherited faulty gene . In men, this might be more common. Doctors think that around 5 to 10 out of 100 breast cancers diagnosed in men are due to inherited faulty genes . In men with breast cancer, changes in the BRCA2 faulty gene are more common than BRCA1.
A Unique Set Of Challenges
About 1 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States are in men. In 2019, about 2,700 men are projected to develop breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, compared to 270,000 women. Breast cancer in women is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. Measured alone, breast cancer in men would rank behind at least 30 other cancers in the number of yearly diagnoses. Discover more breast cancer statistics.
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Coping With A Diagnosis
Being told you have breast cancer can cause a wide range of emotions, such as shock, fear, confusion and, in some cases, embarrassment.
Most people assume breast cancer only affects women, so it can be difficult to come to terms with the diagnosis.
Feelings of isolation and being alone are common in men with breast cancer. This may be because there’s little in the way of advice and support for men with breast cancer, particularly when compared with the support available for women with the condition.
Sometimes men who find themselves in this situation can become depressed. You may be depressed if you’ve felt very down and no longer interested in doing activities you used to enjoy during the past month.
If you think you may be depressed, visit your GP. There is a range of effective treatments, such as medication and counselling, that can help relieve feelings of depression.
You may also find it useful to talk to other men affected by the condition. Breast Cancer Now is a breast cancer charity that provides an online forum for anyone diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer Research UK also provides Cancer Chat, an online forum for anyone affected by cancer.
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.
If genetic testing shows that you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, your doctor will explain what you should do to find cancer early, if you get it.
All men can lower their risk by keeping a healthy weight and exercising regularly.
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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
Statistics And Survival Rates
The prognosis for breast cancer in men is similar to that in women.
According to the American Cancer Society, the chances of surviving 5 years or more after diagnosis are, on average:
- 96% when cancer affects only the breast tissue at diagnosis
- 83% when it affects nearby areas as well as the breast
- 23% when it has spread to other parts of the body
For this reason, it is essential to seek help as soon as a person notices changes. Early stage breast cancer responds well to treatment.
Diagnostic methods and treatments have improved in the last few years, and so the chances of living for at least 5 years after diagnosis are probably higher than the above figures for people currently receiving a diagnosis.
If a person notices changes in their breast, they should see a doctor.
The doctor will symptoms and the individuals personal and family medical history, including any history of estrogen use or radiation treatment.
They will also carry out a physical examination.
They may suggest the following tests:
- a mammogram
- a nipple discharge test
- a biopsy
Sometimes, a doctor will recommend removing a lump and carrying out a biopsy at the same time. They may only remove a part of the area that appears to be affected and carry out a test, or they may remove the whole area, including some of the normal breast tissue surrounding it.
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