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Breast cancer in men is rare. Less than 1 out of 100 cases of breast cancer occurs in a man.footnote 1 It develops in the small amount of breast tissue found behind a man's nipple.
Although the exact cause of breast cancer is not known, most experts agree that some men have a greater risk for breast cancer than others. Male breast cancer mostly affects older men.
Things that increase a man's risk of breast cancer include:
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.
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.
The main treatment for male breast cancer is modified radical mastectomy, which is surgery to remove the breast and the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary lymph nodes). In some cases, breast-conserving surgery is possible.
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.
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.
CitationsNational Cancer Institute (2012). Male Breast Cancer Treatment PDQ—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
Current as ofMarch 28, 2018
Current as of: March 28, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Sarah A. Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Douglas A. Stewart, MD, FRCPC - Medical Oncology
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