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Understanding Male Breast Cancer

happy couple huggingMen, just like women, have breast tissue, just less of it. Although it is rare, men can get breast cancer when breast cells grow out of control – forming a tumor that can be felt as a lump and/or seen on X-ray. Patients with symptoms are encouraged to see a physician, especially if they persist. An early diagnosis increases the chances of treatment success.

Male Breast Cancer Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men include:

  • A painless thickening or lump in the breast tissue
  • Dimpling, puckering, redness, or scaling of the skin covering the breast
  • Nipple changes, such as redness, scaling, or inversion
  • Nipple discharge

Male Breast Cancer Types

Types of breast cancer in men include:

  • Ductal carcinoma. Cancer begins in the milk ducts. This is the most common type, making up nearly all cases of male breast cancer.
  • Lobular carcinoma. Cancer begins in the milk-producing glands. This type of cancer is rare in men because they have far fewer lobules in their breast tissue than women.
  • Paget’s disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer.

Male Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Men are encouraged to be cognizant of risk factors and control them when possible, including:

  • Age. Breast cancer risk increases with age. It is most often diagnosed in men in their 60s.
  • Estrogen exposure. Estrogen-related drugs that are taken for prostate cancer increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Family history. Men who have a family member, especially a close one, with breast cancer have a greater chance of developing the disease.
  • History of Klinefelter’s syndrome. Occurs when boys are born with more than one copy of the X chromosome. Abnormal development of the testicles results, which leads to lower production of androgens (male hormones) and increased production of estrogens (female hormones).
  • History of liver disease. Liver cirrhosis and other conditions may reduce androgens and increase estrogens, which increases breast cancer risk.
  • Obesity. Obese patients have higher levels of estrogen in the body.
  • History of testicle disease or surgery. Testicle inflammation (orchitis) or removal (orchiectomy) can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Male Breast Cancer Diagnosis

A physician may conduct diagnostic tests and procedures to diagnosis breast cancer in men, including:

  • A clinical breast exam (CBE). The breasts and surrounding areas are examined for lumps or other changes. Lump size, shape, texture, and location are assessed.
  • Imaging tests. Pictures of the breast are created so the physician can identify abnormalities. Imaging tests may include a mammogram (X-rays) or an ultrasound.
  • A biopsy. The definitive diagnostic step. During the procedure, a physician uses a tiny needle and X-ray guidance to collect tissue from a suspicious area. Collected tissue is then sent to the laboratory where it is examined for cancer.

If cancer is present, the type of cells involved, aggressiveness (grade), and presence of hormone and other receptors that may influence treatment are determined.

Male Breast Cancer Treatment

Male breast cancer treatment decisions consider numerous factors, including cancer's stage and the patient's health and treatment preferences.

Treatment may include:

  • Surgery. The tumor is surgically removed from the breast.
  • Radiation. High energy X-rays are used to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy. Powerful medications are used to kill cancer cells throughout the body.
  • Hormone therapy. Stops the growth of cancer cells that rely on specific hormones.

Questions to Ask Your Cancer Specialist

A diagnosis of male breast cancer can be overwhelming. Write down a list of questions to help organize your thoughts for when you’re ready to talk to your doctor. Questions such as:

  • What type of male breast cancer do I have?
  • What is the cancer stage?
  • Has the cancer spread?
  • Is it curable?
  • Will I need additional tests?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Are there side effects to the treatment?
  • What treatment option do you feel is best for me?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • Will my daily life be affected?
  • Do you have any information I can bring home with me?

Find a breast cancer specialist

Why Choose Us for Breast Cancer Care

State-of-the-Art Cancer Treatment

RWJBarnabas Health, in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, meets the highest standards in breast cancer research, treatment, prevention, and education in the nation. We offer the most advanced treatment options, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplants, targeted therapy, and access to clinical trials, many of which are not available elsewhere.

Clinical Trials

New Jersey’s Largest Network of Cancer Specialists

We offer access to New Jersey’s largest network of breast cancer specialists, including nationally and internationally recognized hematologists/oncologists, radiation oncologists, advanced practice nurses, and oncology support professionals with advanced credentials in cancer specialty care with expertise in blood cancers.

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To schedule an appointment with one of New Jersey’s best breast cancer specialists call 844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.

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