Breast Cancer, Male
Breast Cancer, Male

Breast Cancer, Male

Men have a small amount of breast tissue and can get breast cancer. Breast cancer is a malignant growth of tissue(tumor) in the breast. Unlike noncancerous (benign) tumors, malignant tumors are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body.

What are the causes?

The cause of male breast cancer is unknown.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:
  • Age. Most cases of male breast cancer occur in men who are in their 60s or 70s. The average age of diagnosis is 72.
  • Having a family history of breast cancer, or having the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
  • Having a history of radiation exposure.
  • Having other medical conditions, such as:
    • A genetic disorder called Klinefelter syndrome.
    • Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis).
    • Certain problems that affect the testicles.

Other factors include:
  • Using medicines that contain estrogen.
  • Obesity.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:
  • A painless lump in the breast.
  • Changes in the size or shape of your breast.
  • Breast skin changes, such as puckering or dimpling.
  • Nipple abnormalities, such as scaling, crustiness, redness, or pulling in (retraction).
  • Nipple discharge that is bloody or clear.

How is this diagnosed?

A comparison of breasts, showing the four stages of breast cancer.

This condition may be diagnosed by:
  • Your medical history.
  • A physical exam. Your health care provider will feel the tissue around your breast and under your arms.
  • Taking a sample of any nipple discharge. The sample will be examined under a microscope.
  • Imaging tests, such as breast X-rays (mammogram), ultrasound, or MRI.
  • Taking a tissue sample (biopsy) from the breast. The sample will be examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
  • Taking a sample from the lymph nodes near the affected breast (sentinel node biopsy).

Your cancer will be staged to determine its severity and extent. Staging is a careful attempt to find out the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread, and if so, to what parts of the body. Staging also includes testing your tumor for certain receptors, such as estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). This will help your cancer care team decide on a treatment that will work best for you. You may need to have more tests to determine the stage of your cancer. Stages include the following:
  • Stage 0—The tumor has not spread to other breast tissue.
  • Stage 1 (I)—The cancer is only found in the breast or may be in the lymph nodes. The tumor may be up to ¾ inch (2 cm) wide.
  • Stage 2 (II)—The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. The tumor may be up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
  • Stage 3 (III)—The cancer has spread to more distant lymph nodes. The tumor may be larger than 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
  • Stage 4 (IV)—The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, brain, liver, or lungs.

How is this treated?

Depending on the type and stage, male breast cancer may be treated with one or more of the following therapies:
  • Surgery. The goal is to remove as much of the cancer as possible. This is done with a procedure to remove the whole breast (mastectomy) and nipple. Some normal tissue surrounding this area may also be removed. This surgery may also involve removing lymph nodes in the area to be checked for cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy, which is the use of medicines to kill cancer cells.
  • Hormone therapy, which involves taking medicine to adjust the hormone levels in your body. You may take medicine to decrease your estrogen levels. This can help stop cancer cells from growing.
  • Targeted therapy, in which medicines are used to block the growth and the spread of cancer cells. These medicines target a specific part of the cancer cell and usually cause fewer side effects than chemotherapy. They may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy, which is the use of medicines to boost the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively.
  • A combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy may be needed to treat breast cancer.

Follow these instructions at home:

A plate with examples of foods in a healthy diet.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and fiber.
    • Make sure half your plate is filled with fruits or vegetables.
    • Choose high-fiber foods such as whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Consider joining a support group. This may help you cope with the stress of having breast cancer.
  • Talk to your health care team about exercise and physical activity. The right exercise program can:
    • Help prevent or reduce symptoms such as fatigue or depression.
    • Improve overall health and survival rates.
  • Keep all follow-up visits. This is important.

Where to find more information

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have a sudden increase in pain.
  • You have any symptoms or changes that concern you.
  • You notice a new lump in either breast or under your arm.
  • You develop swelling in either arm or hand.
  • You lose weight without trying.
  • You have a fever.
  • You notice new fatigue or weakness.

Get help right away if:

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.

These symptoms may be an emergency. Get help right away. Call 911.
  • Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away.
  • Do not drive yourself to the hospital.


  • Breast cancer is a malignant growth of tissue (tumor) in the breast.
  • Your cancer will be staged to determine its severity and extent.
  • Treatment for this condition depends on the type and stage of the breast cancer.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.