Male Breast Cancer

Most of us associate breast cancer with women, and for good reason. One in eight women develop breast cancer during their lifetime. But did you know men can develop breast cancer, too? Male breast cancer is rare, but serious—especially if it’s not found until an advanced stage.

If you’ve noticed unusual changes in (or on) one of your breasts, talk to your doctor right away. You may not have cancer, but you won’t know for sure until you’re evaluated. Any cancer, no matter how rare, can be life-threatening if it’s not diagnosed early.

What is Male Breast Cancer? 

Everyone is born with breast tissue. But once we reach puberty, girls develop more of it.

Even though teen boys don’t undergo the same breast changes, they keep the small amount of tissue they were born with. If cancerous cells eventually grow in this tissue, it’s considered male breast cancer.

Men can develop breast cancer at any age, but it usually affects those over 60. Symptoms include:

  • A lump in your breast.
  • Breast skin that becomes red, puckered, dimpled or scaly.
  • Nipple changes, including discharge or a nipple that suddenly turns inward.

Risk Factors for Male Breast Cancer

Some men are more likely to develop breast or prostate cancer because of a gene mutation that runs in their family. The gene most linked to male breast cancer is called BRCA2.

Other risk factors include:

  • Exposure to estrogen, including hormone therapy to treat prostate cancer.
  • Exposure to radiation. Men who have had radiation treatments for chest cancers are more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Obesity. Men with more fat cells may have increased estrogen levels.
  • Medical conditions that can increase estrogen levels, including cirrhosis and orchitis.

Male Breast Cancer Treatment at Mercy

If you’ve been diagnosed with male breast cancer, your first reaction was probably shock. Not only is it shocking to hear you have cancer, many men are surprised to learn that male breast cancer exists.

Mercy’s breast cancer specialists understand what you’re feeling. We’ve helped men like you learn to cope with an unusual diagnosis. Even better, we helped them overcome their cancer.

Treatment depends on the type of breast cancer you have, and what stage it’s in. Your plan may include:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer. Your surgeon may remove all your breast tissue (including the nipple) and some of the lymph nodes from your armpit.
  • Medication, including hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Male breast cancer usually needs hormones to grow, and hormone therapy drugs help stop hormone production. Chemotherapy can help kill any cancer cells that spread beyond your breast.
  • Radiation treatments are often used after surgery to destroy any leftover cancer cells.

Finding out you have cancer is frightening. And learning you have a rare cancer can be especially alarming. While it’s natural to have concerns, you can also rest assured knowing you’re in capable hands. Our team offers the experience and motivation you need to fight this—and move on.

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