breast cancer
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Breast Cancer in Men
Dr. Anshuman Kumar
05 Sep 2018
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Symptoms of breast cancer in male include swelling, reddening and rashes on and around the nipples along with bloody discharge. Cancer cells are detected as a lump on physical examination or become visible on an x-ray. Surgery, Hormonal therapy, Biological Therapy and chemotherapy are a few ways to treat breast cancer.

Men and women are physiologically different from each other. Often, we hear about breast cancer in women but few of us are aware of breast cancer in men. One out of 800 men can get breast cancer, a condition when the cells in the breast turn cancerous. Significantly, men do have breast but their breast tissues are very less in number if compared to women and not physically remarkable.  

At the young age of 9, both boys and girls have a small amount of breast tissues. With the age, as both reaches the level of puberty, girl’s ovaries produce female hormones leading the breasts to grow in size. On the contrary, in the case of men, they have low levels of female hormones, so their breast does not grow.

It is awkward to know that cancer can grow inside male breast too, which is otherwise commonly known to affect females only. Usually neglected, breast cancer in men is not detected at early stages. Due to ignorance, men hardly ever notice changes going about in their breast or get suspicious of a possible dangerous development.

Age factor as an Important Indicator

There is a high probability of developing breast cancer in men if their age varies between 60-70 years. On the other hand, the risk of developing this deadly condition is very less when the age of any male is 35 years or less.

Risk Factors of Breast Cancer in Men

We hereby cover certain factors which majorly contribute to the of breast cancer in men, including:

If a man has:

  • A genetic condition, known as Klinefelter's syndrome that causes men to be infertile with smaller testicles
  • Acute liver disease, known as Cirrhosis
  • A female relative suffering from breast cancer (genetic factor)
  • Enlarged breast due to any drug or hormone treatment
  • Suffering from a testicle disease called Mumps orchitis
  • Any Testicular injury
  • Previous exposure to radiations on the breast tissues
  • Men who have a gene mutation occurring in the BRCA2 gene have a greater risk of developing breast cancer
  • Intake of estrogen during estrogen therapy taken by men with prostate cancer and those undergoing sex reassignment
  • Just as in the case of women, men too are known to be affected by obesity and breast cancer is one of the major risks because of the presence of higher amounts of estrogen in their body

Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men

One major sign of breast cancer in men is noticeable with the appearance of  ‘a mass block on his chest’. But initially, it may not be suspected to be cancerous in nature. Furthermore, other signs of breast cancer can be noted which are:

Any abnormal changes in breast area including:

  • Tightening in breast tissues which may or may not cause pain or
  • The skin around the nipple might get hard, red or
  • It may seem like puckering, redness or dimpling or
  • Swelling or rashes can be seen around the nipple or
  • Nipple itself gets red or scaly or it can turn inward or
  • Discharge from nipples in some cases
  • In addition to it, small bumps in the armpit, which is a sign of swollen glands, is also a warning sign as per leading healthcare organizations.

Methods of Diagnosis

There are two famous techniques used for the examination of male breast cancer such as:

  • Mammography is the study of the breast using X-ray wherein any new abnormalities of the patient are assessed.
  • Breast Biopsy is a technical examination of tissues, removed from patient’s body, to be examined under a microscope.
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNA) requires putting a needle into the suspected cancerous growth to pick a fluid or tissue sample for examination. When compared to a surgical biopsy, FNA is simpler, less painful and quick.
  • Core needle biopsy (CNB) is done with the means of a needle that has a spring-loaded tool. This enables the needle to have a quicker to and fro movement to take out a tissue sample from the breast for testing purpose.
  • Surgical (open) biopsy involves the surgical removal of the breast tissues by making an incision and then the tissue sample is examined by the doctor to know about cancer.
  • Lymph node biopsy is done when the doctor takes out a tissue sample from the lymph node or the entire lymph node for examining the possible cancerous cells.
  • Nipple discharge test is done with a sample taken from the discharge coming out of the nipple, which could be cloudy, bloody, or clear to check the presence of cancerous cells.

Stages of Breast Cancer

It is the main concern to know the exact stage of cancer that a patient is in so as to make an informed decision about the treatment. Following are the stages of male breast cancer:

Stage 0- Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS): The stage when the cancer is noninvasive and is limited to milk ducts only.

Stage I: In this stage, cancer is still comparatively small and has not spread across the lymph nodes.

Stage II: The tumor is bigger in size as compared to stage I spreading across lymph nodes.

Stage III: Treated with drugs and surgery, this stage includes bigger tumor in the surrounding tissues and greater number of lymph nodes infestation.

Stage IV- Metastatic: Cancer spreads across the liver, bones, lungs, and other parts of the body including brain. It requires systemic therapy in which either chemo, hormone, targeted or combination therapy is given.


Treatment of breast cancer in men has the same procedures and technologies as those involved in treating breast cancer in women.

  • Surgery – As men have much fewer breast tissues, so usually it is essential to remove all the tissues and nipple if affected via surgery.
  • Chemotherapy – It helps to destroy cancer cells through drugs.
  • Hormone Therapy- In most cases, male breast tumors are hormone sensitive and respond well to this therapy. Via this method, production of hormone is interfered to stop the growth of hormone-sensitive tumor
  • Radiation- High-energy rays like gamma rays are used to damage cancer cells, stopping them from growing and dividing.
  • Biological Therapy – In this therapy, vaccines or bacteria are used to stimulate the body’s immune system to act against cancerous cells.

After Treatment Care

Even though the doctor declares you cancer-free but it is difficult not to worry about it striking back especially when you have already had it once. You have the following ways to manage your life and health after cancer:

  • Have follow up schedule for mammograms, blood tumor marker studies, bone density tests among others
  • Have your health insurance and medical record handy for future reference in an event if it comes back
  • Staying physically fit and active
  • Eating a healthy food is essential as it has a considerable effect on cancer
  • Maintaining healthy weight is an easy way to stay away from cancer with proven studies that relate food with cancer

As in the case of men, late diagnosis is the main reason behind the higher rate of fatality. Hence, early detection along with timely medical intervention is the key to fight breast cancer in males. Although the percentage of developing breast cancer in men is low but cannot be ruled out completely.

Dr. Anshuman Kumar

About the Author

Surgical Oncologist
Dr. Anshuman Kumar is a well known and recognized Oncosurgeon of India. After completing his Graduation from Patna Medical College and Post graduation in General Surgery from Aligarh Muslim University, he did M.Ch in Oncosurgery from Gujarat Cancer & Research Institute (GCRI) Ahmedabad. He was awarded Gold Medal for his academic excellence through out his career. He has also done MRCS from U.K (Edinburgh). His special area of interest in cancer surgeries are Head and neck and oesophagus cancer surgeries.
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Sragvibhushan Rai
Sept. 5, 2018, 7:14 p.m.
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