Male Breast Cancer

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Male breast cancer facts

  • Male breast cancer is rare and accounts for only about 1% of all breast cancers.
  • Breast cancer risk in men is increased by elevated levels of estrogen, previous radiation exposure, and a family history of breast cancer.
  • Infiltrating ductal carcinoma is the most common type of male breast cancer.
  • A lump beneath the nipple is the most common symptom of male breast cancer.
  • Male breast cancer is staged (reflecting the extent of tumor spread) identically to breast cancer in women.
  • Surgery is the most common initial treatment for male breast cancer; chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy are also administered.
  • The prognosis of male breast cancer, like breast cancer in women, is predominantly influenced by tumor stage.

What is male breast cancer?

Men possess a small amount of nonfunctioning breast tissue (breast tissue that cannot produce milk) that is concentrated in the area directly behind the nipple on the chest wall. Like breast cancer in women, cancer of the male breast is the uncontrolled growth with the potential for spread of some of the cells of this breast tissue. These cells become so abnormal in appearance and behavior that they are then called cancer cells.

Breast tissue in both young boys and girls consists of tubular structures known as ducts. At puberty, a girl's ovaries produce female hormones (estrogen) that cause the ducts to grow and milk glands (lobules) to develop at the ends of the ducts. The amount of fat and connective tissue in the breast also increases as girls go through puberty. On the other hand, male hormones (such as testosterone) secreted by the testes suppress the growth of breast tissue and the development of lobules. The male breast, therefore, is made up of predominantly small, undeveloped ducts and a small amount of fat and connective tissue.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/12/2013

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