What is Breast Cancer in Men? Understanding the Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Male breasts don’t have the same function as female breasts because they stop developing during puberty due to testosterone. As a result, male breast tissue stays relatively flat and small compared to female breasts. So, on the outside, men will have breasts due to the nipples and areolas, but internally, there will be minimal glandular tissue or developed milk ducts.

Because breasts are a part of both genders’ anatomies, males can also get breast cancer. According to BreastCancer.org, male breast cancer accounts for about one percent of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S., and male breast cancer incidence rates increase each year.

This is an important yet under-discussed topic, so we wanted to be your resource for understanding male breast cancer, risk factors, treatments and why it can be difficult to diagnose without proper testing.

Am I At Risk for Male Breast Cancer?

All men are at risk of developing breast cancer because all men have breasts. However, the condition is rare, and certain factors increase risk, including being older than 65, having high estrogen levels, having a history of radiation exposure to the chest or abdomen, chemical exposure to breasts, obesity and a family history of male breast cancer.

For example, there is evidence suggesting that in Klinefelter syndrome (XXY), a condition where the patient has lower androgen and higher estrogen levels, there is increased risk of developing male breast cancer.

What Are the Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer?

The symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to those females with breast cancer experience, including:

  • a lump in the breast
  • enlarged lymph nodes under the arm (sometimes felt in the armpit)
  • sores on the nipple and areola
  • nipple pain
  • an inverted nipple
  • nipple discharge

How Are Men Tested for Breast Cancer?

Men are tested similarly to women with mammography screening, ultrasound, biopsy and clinical exams. If lumps are present, the doctor can examine them with a biopsy to distinguish normal tissue from cancer tissue. If there is any discharge from the nipple, some of it may be collected and examined under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.

What Are Male Breast Cancer Treatment Options?

Treatment options for male breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. MammoSite breast cancer treatment can be a good treatment option following lumpectomy as the treatment delivers targeted radiation to the area where cancer is most likely to recur. For men who are not candidates for MammoSite, SAVI offers a more flexible procedure that permits precise radiation of irregular lumpectomy cavities.

Most men don’t realize they may be at risk because breast cancer is most common in women. As a preventable and treatable disease, male breast cancer has a higher chance of being eliminated if it is detected early.

If you are high risk, contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about breast cancer, our breast cancer surgeons, and breast cancer treatment options. Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology was the first Tampa Bay cancer treatment center to offer MammoSite and SAVI treatment to Florida breast cancer patients. More than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.