For Quick Alerts
For Daily Alerts

Male Breast Cancer: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors And Treatment

By Soumik Ghosh

Men generally think that they don't really have breast tissue. But the truth is, they do. Maybe men have lesser breast tissue than women and so the risk of developing breast cancer in men is comparatively rarer, but it's not an absolute myth.

It's true that whenever we talk about breast cancer, we barely talk or even think about men who are also diagnosed with this condition. We assume breast cancer is exclusively a woman's disease. In fact, men make up even less than one per cent of global breast cancer cases. But the risk still exists, right? And you know what's worse? Most men often ignore the symptoms.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer Too

While men don't necessarily need to undergo regular self-breast exams, they should occasionally check for pain or lumps in and around their breast tissue. And if, in case, you do experience pain, please do not ignore it: see a doctor right away.

Much in advance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year in October, we from Boldsky bring to you the symptoms, probable causes and every little thing related to breast cancer that all men should watch out for.

Types Of Male Breast Cancer

Ductal Carcinoma- This type of cancer begins in the milk-carrying ducts. Although male breast cancer is a rare event in itself, almost all cases are ductal carcinoma.

Lobular Carcinoma- This type of cancer begins in the milk-producing glands. This type is rare because men have very few lobules in their breast tissues [1] .

Other Types- Other, rarer types of breast cancer in men include Paget's disease and inflammatory breast cancer.

Causes Of Male Breast Cancer

It's still not clear to scientists what causes breast cancer in males. However, it has been asserted that male breast cancer occurs when some breast cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells. Thereafter, the accumulating cells form a tumour that stands exposed to spreading (metastasizing) to nearby tissues, lymph nodes or other parts of the body [2] .

Every man on earth is born with a small amount of breast tissue. Breast tissues generally consist of milk-producing glands or lobules, ducts that carry milk to the nipples and fat. The only differentiating factor is that while women begin developing more breast tissues during puberty, men do not. But since men are born with lesser breast tissues, they also always stand a chance to develop breast cancer [3] .

Symptoms Of Male Breast Cancer

  • Lumps: Guys often ignore lumps on their chest, little knowing that the lump in your pecs can be a sign of breast cancer, too. Usually painless, these lumps can sometimes feel tender when touched. If the cancer has spread, swelling can be spotted under the armpit or around the collar bone[4] .
  • Inverted nipple: While growing, a breast cancer tumour starts pulling ligaments inside the breast. And as a result, it causes the nipple to invert or become dented. Sometimes, it's accompanied by dry, scaly skin near the area.
  • Nipple discharge: At times, men with preliminary breast cancer notice stains on their shirts, but they simply chalk them up to spills. Take note, if stains always appear on the same side of the chest, then it could be nipple discharge. It happens when fluid from the tumour leaks out of the nipple duct [5] .
  • Open sores: In some of the extreme cases, when cancer has been ignored, men develop an open sore on the nipple when the tumour is almost growing through the skin. Since men are born with almost negligible breast tissue, it's possible for the tumour to push itself through the skin. The sore, in such cases, looks like a picked pimple.

If you happen to relate to any of these above symptoms, do consult your doctor or a subject expert without delay[6] .

Risk Factors Of Male Breast Cancer

  • Age
  • Genes
  • Weight gain [7]
  • Hormone exposure
  • Klinefelter syndrome
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Liver disease
  • Testicle surgery
  • Radiation exposure

Diagnosis Of Male Breast Cancer

For examining and understanding the extent of the condition, the doctor will carry out the following tests and procedures[8] :

  • Clinical breast exam
  • Imaging tests
  • Removing a sample of breast cells for testing (biopsy)

Other tests and procedures may be recommended depending on your particular situation.

Likewise, the tests and procedures used to stage breast cancer may include:

  • Bone scan
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

Treatment For Male Breast Cancer

The following are the medical care provided for the condition [9] .

  • Surgery to remove the tumour and surrounding breast tissue.
  • Radiation therapy such as X-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells.
  • Hormone therapy, if your cancer is hormone-sensitive, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy.
  • Chemotherapy.

Also note that breast cancer, when diagnosed at an early stage, has a good chance for cure. Although many risk factors such as age and genes are factors you cannot control, there are ways you could adopt which can help in preventing the onset of the condition to an extent.

Such as keeping your weight within a healthy range, exercising on most days of the week, avoiding alcohol consumption and so on [10] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Giordano, S. H. (2018). Breast cancer in men. New England Journal of Medicine, 378(24), 2311-2320.
  2. [2] Williamson, I. R., Wildbur, D., & Quincey, K. (2017, August). Shifting masculinities amongst men diagnosed with breast cancer: a multi-method phenomenological inquiry.
  3. [3] Grundy, A., Harris, S. A., Demers, P. A., Johnson, K. C., Agnew, D. A., Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group, & Villeneuve, P. J. (2016). Occupational exposure to magnetic fields and breast cancer among Canadian men. Cancer medicine, 5(3), 586-596.
  4. [4] Mainiero, M. B., Lourenco, A. P., Barke, L. D., Argus, A. D., Bailey, L., Carkaci, S., ... & Lee, S. J. (2015). ACR appropriateness criteria evaluation of the symptomatic male breast. Journal of the American College of Radiology, 12(7), 678-682.
  5. [5] Sanguinetti, A., Polistena, A., Lucchini, R., Monacelli, M., Galasse, S., Avenia, S., ... & Avenia, N. (2016). Male breast cancer, clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment: Twenty years of experience in our Breast Unit. International journal of surgery case reports, 20, 8-11.
  6. [6] Cardoso, G., Graca, J., Klut, C., Trancas, B., & Papoila, A. (2016). Depression and anxiety symptoms following cancer diagnosis: a cross-sectional study. Psychology, health & medicine, 21(5), 562-570.
  7. [7] Huggenberger, I. K., & Andersen, J. S. (2015). Predictive value of the official cancer alarm symptoms in general practice: a systematic review. Dan Med J, 62(5), A5034.
  8. [8] Adams, R. (2019). Prostate cancer in the Caribbean is taking down our men: access to care and changes in attitude are required. Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública, 42, e117.
  9. [9] Eismann, J., Heng, Y., Fleischmann-Rose, K., Tobias, A., Phillips, J., Wulf, G., & Kansal, K. (2019). Interdisciplinary Management of Transgender Individuals at Risk for Breast Cancer: Case Reports and Review of the Literature. Clinical breast cancer, 19(1).
  10. [10] Gucalp, A., Traina, T. A., Eisner, J. R., Parker, J. S., Selitsky, S. R., Park, B. H., ... & Cardoso, F. (2019). Male breast cancer: a disease distinct from female breast cancer. Breast cancer research and treatment, 173(1), 37-48.

Read more about: breast cancer
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from third party social media websites and ad networks. Such third party cookies may track your use on Boldsky sites for better rendering. Our partners use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on Boldsky website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Learn more