The most common symptom of male breast cancer is a painless lump or swelling behind the nipple. Other symptoms can include a discharge from the nipple or a lump or thickening in the armpit. Although most men diagnosed with breast cancer are older than 65, breast cancer can appear in younger men. For this reason, any breast lump in an adult male is considered abnormal and should be checked out by a doctor.
How is male breast cancer diagnosed?
Most male breast cancer is diagnosed with a biopsy to investigate a lump or thickening in the breast or armpit. Because there is no routine screening for breast cancer and a breast lump does not usually cause pain, sometimes breast cancer isn't discovered until it has spread to another area of the body and is causing other symptoms.
There hasn't been much research on breast cancer treatments in men, because male breast cancer is so uncommon. But breast cancer in men is similar to breast cancer in women, and some of the same treatments may be used. These include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.
Chemotherapy may be used after surgery to reduce the chance that breast cancer will come back somewhere else in the body. Most male breast cancer has estrogen and progesterone receptors and may be treated with tamoxifen.
Additional information about male breast cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malebreast/Patient.
What to think about
Male breast cancer is rare and makes up less than 1% of all breast cancers discovered each year. footnote 1For this reason, many experts encourage men with breast cancer to talk to their doctors about clinical trials. These trials continue to look for better ways to treat male breast cancer.
National Cancer Institute (2012). Male Breast Cancer Treatment PDQâ€”Patient Version. Available online: http://nci.nih.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malebreast/Patient.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah A. Marshall, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerDouglas A. Stewart, MD, FRCPC - Medical Oncology