All babies are born with breast tissue that contains milk ducts. Though it develops differently over time, both men and women can get breast cancer, although women have a much higher risk. No one knows exactly what causes male breast cancer, but studies suggest changes in your genes or hormone levels can play a role. Less than 1% of all breast cancer cases are in men.
Spot the symptoms
- A painless lump or thickening in your breast tissue
- Changes to the skin covering your breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling
- Changes to your nipple, such as redness or scaling, or a nipple that begins to turn inward
- Discharge from your nipple
- Older age.The risk of breast cancer increases as you age. Male breast cancer is most often diagnosed in men in their 60s.
- If your chest has been treated with radiation for another type of cancer, you have a greater chance of getting male breast cancer. Your odds also go up if you took oestrogen for prostate cancer or have testicular issues like an undescended testicle, surgery to remove a testicle, or you’ve had mumps as an adult.
- Role of genes You’re at an increased risk if a blood relative — man or woman — has had breast cancer. That’s also true if you inherited a gene change (called a mutation) like BRCA1 and BRCA2. Klinefelter syndrome, in which boys are born with an XXY chromosome instead of XY, raises your odds of getting male breast cancer 20 to 60 times.
- Liver disease.Certain conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, can reduce male hormones and increase female hormones, increasing your risk of breast cancer.
- Obesity is associated with higher levels of oestrogen in the body, which increases the risk of male breast cancer.
Types of male breast cancer
Most male breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, or cancer that starts in your milk ducts. Lobular carcinoma, or cancer of the glands that make milk, is even more rare. This is because men have so few of those glands in their breast tissue. Other rare types are Paget’s disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer, which makes your breast feel swollen and warm.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor makes a diagnosis based on a combination of tests and procedures. During a breast exam, your doctor looks for visual changes and uses their fingers to feel for lumps. You may have an imaging test, like a mammogram or ultrasound and may get a biopsy. In this procedure, the doctor uses a needle to remove tissue to check for cancer cells.
Your doctor can check the stage of your cancer with bone, CT, or PET (positron emission tomography) scans. Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV. Stage 0 means that the cancer hasn’t left the milk ducts. Stage IV means it’s spread to other parts of your body. This is also called metastatic cancer. Once you know your stage, your doctor can narrow down your treatment options.
Surgery is the most common treatment for male breast cancer. It usually involves a mastectomy, which removes your breast tissue, nipple and areola, and any surrounding lymph nodes where the cancer may have spread. Radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy may also be used to slow growth and kill cancer cells.
You’ll have follow-up visits after surgery to make sure everything’s healing well. You’ll also get exams and tests every 3 to 6 months to see if the cancer has come back. If you stay cancer-free for 5 years or more, you may move to a yearly visit. You’ll also have an annual mammogram if you still have breast tissue in one breast.