Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer can include:
- A painless lump or thickening in your breast tissue
- Changes to the skin covering your breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling
- Changes to your nipple, such as redness or scaling, or a nipple that begins to turn inward
- Discharge from your nipple
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.
To determine your male breast cancer treatment options, your doctor considers your cancer's stage, your overall health and your preferences. Male breast cancer treatment often involves surgery and may also include other treatments.
The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and surrounding breast tissue. Surgical procedures used to treat male breast cancer include:
- Surgery to remove breast tissue and surrounding lymph nodes. Most men with breast cancer undergo a modified radical mastectomy. In this procedure, a surgeon removes all of your breast tissue, including the nipple and areola, and some underarm (axillary) lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes are tested to see if they contain cancer cells. Removing your lymph nodes increases your risk of serious arm swelling (lymphedema).
- Surgery to remove one lymph node for testing. During a sentinel lymph node biopsy, your doctor identifies the lymph node most likely to be the first place your cancer cells would spread. That lymph node is removed and tested for cancer cells. If no cancer cells are found in that lymph node, there is a good chance that your breast cancer hasn't spread beyond your breast tissue.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. During radiation therapy for male breast cancer, radiation comes from a large machine that moves around your body, directing the energy beams to precise points on your chest.
In male breast cancer, radiation therapy may be used to eliminate any remaining cancer cells in the breast, chest muscles or armpit after surgery.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy treatment often involves receiving two or more drugs in different combinations. These may be administered through a vein in your arm (intravenously), in pill form or by both methods.
Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may have spread outside your breast. Chemotherapy may also be an option for men with advanced breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast.
Some breast cancers rely on hormones for fuel. If your doctor determines that your cancer uses hormones to help it grow, you may be offered hormone therapy. Most men with male breast cancer have hormone-sensitive tumors. Hormone therapy for male breast cancer often involves the medication tamoxifen, which is also used in women. Other hormone therapy medications used in women with breast cancer haven't been shown to be effective in men.
Feb. 25, 2012
- Male breast cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malebreast/patient. Accessed Jan. 18, 2012.
- Johansen Taber KA, et al. Male breast cancer: Risk factors, diagnosis and management. Oncology Reports. 2010;24:1115.
- Gomez-Raposo C, et al. Male breast cancer. Cancer Treatment Reviews. 2010;36:451.
- Brain K, et al. Psychological distress in men with breast cancer. American Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2006;24:95.
- Distress management. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Jan. 18, 2012.