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Breast Cancer in Men (Male Breast Cancer)

British Columbia Specific Information

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in British Columbia. Breast cancer can occur in men as well, but it is not as common. Tests and treatments for breast cancer vary from person to person, and are based on individual circumstances. Certain factors such as your age, family history, or a previous breast cancer diagnosis may increase your risk of developing breast cancer. For information about your specific risk factors, speak with your health care provider.

A number of screening methods, including mammograms in women, can help find and diagnose breast cancer. The decision to have a mammogram or use any other screening method may be a difficult decision for some women. While screening for breast cancer is often recommended, it is not mandatory. Speak with your health care provider for information regarding how to get screened, the facts and myths about screening tests, how to maintain your breast health, and to get help making an informed decision.

For more information about breast cancer and breast cancer screening, visit:

If you have questions about breast cancer or medications, speak with your health care provider or call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse or pharmacist. Our nurses are available anytime, every day of the year, and our pharmacists are available every night from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Topic Overview

What is male breast cancer?

Breast cancer in men develops in the small amount of breast tissue found behind a man's nipple. It is often a type called invasive ductal carcinoma.

What causes male breast cancer?

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:

What are the symptoms?

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?

To check out a lump or thickening in the breast or armpit, tests such as a mammogram or ultrasound may be done. If either of these tests show signs of cancer, a biopsy will likely be done to know for sure if there is cancer.

Because there is no routine screening for male 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.

How is it treated?

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).

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. With this type of cancer, treatment may also include medicines, such as tamoxifen.

What to think about

If you have male breast cancer, your doctor may suggest that you see a cancer genetics specialist to talk about genetic testing.

Male breast cancer is rare. For 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.

Credits

Adaptation Date: 9/22/2021

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC