Breast cancer may occur in men. Men at any age may develop breast cancer, but it is usually detected (found) in men between 60 and 70 years of age. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all cases of breast cancer.
The following types of breast cancer are found in men:
Lobular carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells found in one of the lobes or sections of the breast), which sometimes occurs in women, has not been seen in men.
Anatomy of the male breast. The nipple and areola are shown on the outside of the breast. The lymph nodes, fatty tissue, ducts, and other parts of the inside of the breast are also shown.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for breast cancer in men may include the following:
The genes in cells carry the hereditary information that is received from a person’s parents. Hereditary breast cancer makes up about 5% to 10% of all breast cancer. Some mutated genes related to breast cancer are more common in certain ethnic groups. Men who have a mutated gene related to breast cancer have an increased risk of this disease.
There are tests that can detect (find) mutated genes. These genetic tests are sometimes done for members of families with a high risk of cancer. See the following PDQ summaries for more information:
Lumps and other signs may be caused by male breast cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you notice a change in your breasts.Tests that examine the breasts are used to detect (find) and diagnose breast cancer in men.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Decisions about the best treatment are based on the results of these tests. The tests give information about:
Tests include the following:
Survival for men with breast cancer is similar to that for women with breast cancer when their stage at diagnosis is the same. Breast cancer in men, however, is often diagnosed at a later stage. Cancer found at a later stage may be less likely to be cured.Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
After breast cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the breast or to other parts of the body. This process is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. Breast cancer in men is staged the same as it is in women. The spread of cancer from the breast to lymph nodes and other parts of the body appears to be similar in men and women.
The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:
Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:
When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.
The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.<EmbeddedVideo><VideoTitle>metastasis: how cancer spreads</VideoTitle></EmbeddedVideo>The following stages are used for male breast cancer:
This section describes the stages of breast cancer. The breast cancer stage is based on the results of testing that is done on the tumor and lymph nodes removed during surgery and other tests.Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ)
There are 3 types of breast carcinoma in situ:
Tumor sizes. The size of a tumor may be compared to the size of a pea (1 cm), peanut (2 cm), grape (3 cm), walnut (4 cm), lime (5 cm), egg (6 cm), peach (7 cm), or grapefruit (10 cm).
In stage I, cancer has formed. Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB.
Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB.
In stage IIIA:
In stage IIIB, the tumor may be any size and cancer has spread to the chest wall and/or to the skin of the breast and caused swelling or an ulcer. Also, cancer may have spread to :
Cancer that has spread to the skin of the breast may also be inflammatory breast cancer. See the section on Inflammatory Male Breast Cancer for more information.Stage IIIC
In stage IIIC, no tumor is found in the breast or the tumor may be any size. Cancer may have spread to the skin of the breast and caused swelling or an ulcer and/or has spread to the chest wall. Also, cancer has spread to:
Cancer that has spread to the skin of the breast may also be inflammatory breast cancer. See the section on Inflammatory Male Breast Cancer for more information.
For treatment, stage IIIC breast cancer is divided into operable and inoperable stage IIIC.Stage IV
In stage IV, cancer has spread to other organs of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver, or brain.
In inflammatory breast cancer, cancer has spread to the skin of the breast and the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm. The redness and warmth occur because the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin. The skin of the breast may also show the dimpled appearance called peau d’orange (like the skin of an orange). There may not be any lumps in the breast that can be felt. Inflammatory breast cancer may be stage IIIB, stage IIIC, or stage IV.
Recurrent breast cancer is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may come back in the breast, in the chest wall, or in other parts of the body.
Different types of treatment are available for men with breast cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website. Choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment is a decision that ideally involves the patient, family, and health care team.Five types of standard treatment are used to treat men with breast cancer:Surgery
Surgery for men with breast cancer is usually a modified radical mastectomy (removal of the breast, many of the lymph nodes under the arm, the lining over the chest muscles, and sometimes part of the chest wall muscles).
Modified radical mastectomy. The dotted line shows where the entire breast and some lymph nodes are removed. Part of the chest wall muscle may also be removed.
Breast-conserving surgery, an operation to remove the cancer but not the breast itself, is also used for some men with breast cancer. A lumpectomy is done to remove the tumor (lump) and a small amount of normal tissue around it. Radiation therapy is given after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left.
Breast-conserving surgery. Dotted lines show the area containing the tumor that is removed and some of the lymph nodes that may be removed.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
See Drugs Approved for Breast Cancer for more information.Hormone therapy
Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that removes hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing. Hormones are substances made by glands in the body and circulated in the bloodstream. Some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow. If tests show that the cancer cells have places where hormones can attach (receptors), drugs, surgery, or radiation therapy is used to reduce the production of hormones or block them from working.
Hormone therapy with tamoxifen is often given to patients with early localized breast cancer that can be removed by surgery and those with metastatic breast cancer (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body).
See Drugs Approved for Breast Cancer for more information.Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:
The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. External radiation therapy is used to treat male breast cancer.Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy used to treat men with breast cancer.
Monoclonal antibody therapy uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies are also used with chemotherapy as adjuvant therapy (treatment given after surgery to lower the risk that the cancer will come back).
Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that blocks the effects of the growth factor protein HER2.
See Drugs Approved for Breast Cancer for more information.Treatment for male breast cancer may cause side effects.
For information about side effects caused by treatment for cancer, see our Side Effects page.
For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.
Breast cancer in men is treated the same as breast cancer in women. (See the PDQ summary on Breast Cancer Treatment for more information.)
Treatment for men diagnosed with breast cancer is usually modified radical mastectomy. Breast-conserving surgery with lumpectomy may be used for some men.
Therapy given after an operation when cancer cells can no longer be seen is called adjuvant therapy. Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the operation, the patient may be given radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and/or targeted therapy after surgery, to try to kill any cancer cells that may be left.
These treatments appear to increase survival in men as they do in women. The patient’s response to hormone therapy depends on whether there are hormone receptors (proteins) in the tumor. Most breast cancers in men have these receptors. Hormone therapy is usually recommended for male breast cancer patients, but it can have many side effects, including hot flashes and impotence (the inability to have an erection adequate for sexual intercourse).
Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer (cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body) may include the following:
In men who have just been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that is hormone receptor positive or if the hormone receptor status is not known, treatment may include:
In men whose tumors are hormone receptor positive or hormone receptor unknown, with spread to the bone or soft tissue only, and who have been treated with tamoxifen, treatment may include:
In men with metastatic breast cancer that is hormone receptor positive and has not responded to other treatments, options may include targeted therapy such as:
In men with metastatic breast cancer that is HER2/neu positive, treatment may include:
In men with metastatic breast cancer that is hormone receptor negative, has not responded to hormone therapy, has spread to other organs or has caused symptoms, treatment may include:
Other treatment options
Other treatment options for metastatic breast cancer include:
For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.
For men with locally recurrent disease (cancer that has come back in a limited area after treatment), treatment is usually either:
For more information from the National Cancer Institute about male breast cancer, see the following:
For general cancer information and other resources from the National Cancer Institute, see the following:
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PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Male Breast Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/male-breast-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389417]
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Physicians version: CDR0000062745
Date last modified: 2017-09-29
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