Male Breast Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer Symptoms in Men

Men are notorious for ignoring health problems. In some cases, if the underlying cause of a problem is cancer, ignoring symptoms could put men at risk. Some cancer symptoms in men are specific only to men (such as a mass in the scrotum or testicle), and others symptoms such as pain or fatigue are general and could have many causes.

Breast cancer in men is not common, but is it possible. Any mass in the breast area, or breast changes such as:

  • dimpling or puckering of the skin,
  • nipple retraction,
  • redness or scaling, or
  • nipple discharge should be reported to your physician.

The doctor may order a mammogram, a biopsy, or other tests if indicated.

Quick GuideMen's Cancer Pictures Slideshow: 15 Symptoms Men Ignore

Men's Cancer Pictures Slideshow: 15 Symptoms Men Ignore

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.
  • Mutations in specific genes are associated with an increase in risk for breast cancer in men.
  • 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. Depending on the situation, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy are also considered.
  • The prognosis of male breast cancer, like breast cancer in women, is predominantly influenced by tumor stage.
  • The prognosis for early-stage breast cancer in men is favorable, with 5-year survival rates of 100% for stage 0 and stage 1 tumors.

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 2/25/2016
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