Men Get Breast Cancer Symptoms Risk Factors Types Support
Last updated 03/29/2023
We often don’t think of men getting breast cancer. However, it can develop in males as well. Men get breast cancer.
And men aren’t aware they can get this disease. So, they aren’t on the lookout for symptoms. Because they have no knowledge of early signs nor breast cancer screenings they are often diagnosed at a later stage.
Breast cancer in males is pretty rare but they can still be at risk. According to the CDC about one out of every 100 cases diagnosed in the US is a male. Similarly, to women the most common types are found in men.
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Male Breast Anatomy
The structure of the male breast is almost the same as the female breast minus the special lobules. As males they have no physiologic use to produce milk. Thus, their breasts have no function.
The nipple and areola are positioned more on the outside of the breast. Healthy males have lymph nodes, fatty tissue with few ducts and fibrous tissue. In conclusion, the male breast sits on top of the pectorals muscle (pec) that is above the ribcage.
Men and Breast Cancer
Compared to women there are very few cases of breast cancer in men. So, there is less information and research focusing on male breast cancer. Treatment options are usually based on the studies done with women.
More clinical trials are opening up to include men. Being a man who has been diagnosed with breast cancer it could be beneficial to enroll in a clinical trial. Above all, it could be worth uncovering information about the treatment offered.
According to the Breast Cancer Organization, men with breast cancer expressed feeling shocked and isolated with the diagnosis. Most people recognize breast cancer as a women’s disease.
Other responses were they never met a man who had breast cancer. Furthermore, support is available for men as well.
Men Get Breast Cancer Symptoms
Men aren’t regularly checking their breast and don’t have knowledge of early warning signs for breast cancer. In other words, time can pass before noticing a lump or shift and consulting their doctor. Most importantly, any unusual variation to their breast, chest or armpit should be examined by a physician very soon.
Common symptoms in men are:
- Feeling a firm lump in the breast, generally just beneath the nipple
- A lump in the armpit
- Painful nipple
- Breast has redness or flaky skin
- Irritation or dimpling viewed on breast skin
- Nipple has discharge that is clear or bloody
- Inward twisting nipple
- Sores or a rash presenting on the nipple or areola
- Breast size and shape has transformed
However, these symptoms can occur with other conditions not cancer related. Men should also be familiar with their breast tissue. This includes the look and feel. Further, an early detection is the key.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Men
Several factors can raise a man’s chance of developing breast cancer. In other words, risk factors don’t mean you will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Just be aware, if you have these.
Breast cancer risk increases as you get older. The majority of breast cancer diagnosis of men in the US on average is around age 67. But it can develop in young men, too.
The Breast Cancer Organization states a man with a BRCA1 mutation has around one percent chance of developing breast cancer in his lifetime. On the other hand, a man having BRCA2 has around seven percent to eight percent risk.
Especially having a close male relative who had the disease increases the risk. A close family member who had breast cancer also raises a man’s risk for it.
Radiation therapy is a treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. A man may have received this treatment to his chest. Further, this places him at increased risk for developing breast cancer.
Certain drugs with estrogen were given to treat prostate cancer years ago. These increase breast cancer risk for men.
Klinefelter syndrome is a rare genetic condition that passes an additional x chromosome to a male. In addition, the testicles develop abnormally. As a result, the body can produce a higher level of estrogen and lower level of androgens.
Men diagnosed with Klinefelter syndrome can have a higher chance of developing gynecomastia (enlarged breast). In short, this is a breast tissue growth but it’s not cancer. And male breast cancer can occur.
Men can have testicle injury or swelling as well as an undescended testicle condition. For example, mumps orchitis is a disease of the testicles. Likewise, surgery to remove one or both testicles (orchiectomy), each example can raise his breast cancer risk.
Cirrhosis (scarring) involving the liver can decrease androgen levels and increase estrogen levels with men. This can limit the livers function in balancing hormone levels in the blood. In short, this raises the risk of breast cancer.
Overweight and Obesity
Older men being over-weight or obese can have higher risk for breast cancer in comparison to men of normal weight.
Men Get Breast Cancer Types
These are the common types of breast cancer in men.
Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
Invasive ductal carcinoma will begin in the ducts, cancer cells continue to grow on the outside of the ducts. After that, cells grow in other areas of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can spread or metastasize as well to other areas of the body.
Invasive Lobular Carcinoma
As it is named, the cancer cells begin in the lobules. This type can then spread to breast tissue nearby. Further, like other invasive types lobular can spread to other areas of the body.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)
Ductal carcinoma in situ is a breast disease. This can progress to invasive breast cancer. That is to say, these cancer cells are just contained in the lining of the ducts. So, they haven’t spread to other breast tissue.
Reduce Your Risk for Male Breast Cancer
Share this information with your physician.
- Your family member had breast or ovarian cancer
- A family member has a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
Your doctor could send you for genetic counseling. Mutations in men of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can increase the risk for breast cancer. High-grade prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer can also be a higher risk.
When genetic testing reveals you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene your physician can recommend the following:
- Breast self-exam training as well as education beginning at age 35
- Annual clinical breast exams also at age 35
- Most importantly, for men with BRCA2 mutation, prostate cancer screening beginning at age 45
Men’s Breast Self-Exam
According to the Male Breast Cancer Coalition men have breast too. There is a very professional video demonstrating how to do a men’s breast self-exam. I hope that you will check this out and pass it on.
Male breast cancer occurs in about one percent of all breast cancers. Even though it is rare it can happen to anyone no matter your age. So, be aware of your own body. Take notice of changes in the look and feel of your breast (chest area) or nipple. Most importantly, talk to your doctor about anything altered right away.
Be proactive and if you feel it is necessary, request a second opinion.
Bret Miller is the founder of Male Breast Cancer Happens. He is also a breast cancer survivor. This is his story.
Bret discovered a lump behind his right nipple when he was seventeen years of age. His doctor dismissed it as hormonal and normal. In other words, he was a young guy.
So, he was instructed to look after it. When he was 24 and having a routine physical Bret posed the physician on his lump. A sonogram was recommended, then a mammogram and after that a biopsy.
Later on, he was told he had stage 1 breast cancer. Treatment followed including a mastectomy and going through four months of chemotherapy.
Website for Male Breast Cancer
MBCH website is a not-for-profit patient advocacy organization. Its purpose is to educate and gather all together in the world about male breast cancer.
Bret was age 24 when told he had breast cancer. He promised his surgeon no man would ever feel alone hearing those words, you have breast cancer. Therefore, in 2014 Bret put together the Male Breast Cancer Coalition.
MBCH provides stories involving male breast cancer survivors around the world. You can learn more on the website and find other resources for men and their families dealing with this disease.
Wrapping it up
Men have breast tissue although not exactly the same as women. Their structure lacks the special lobules to produce milk. Thus, the male breast has no function.
However, men can have breast cancer risk and should be aware. They don’t normally examine their breast for cancer nor have a screening as women do but maybe they should. Most importantly, the word needs to be spread that breast cancer can occur in men too. There is support available.
Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.
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