Breast cancer in men

Breast cancer is a condition that men can also get. It is over 100 times less common in men, than in women, in Northern Ireland. It usually occurs in men over 60, but can very occasionally affect younger men. See your GP if you have the symptoms below.

Symptoms of breast cancer in men

Signs of breast cancer in men include:

  • a lump in the breast – this is usually hard, painless and doesn't move around within the breast
  • the nipple turning inwards (inverted nipple)
  • fluid oozing from the nipple (nipple discharge), which may be streaked with blood
  • a sore or rash around the nipple that doesn't go away
  • the nipple or surrounding skin becoming hard, red or swollen
  • small bumps in the armpit (swollen glands)

This page is about breast cancer in men – read about breast cancer in women.

When to see your GP

See your GP if you have:

  • a lump in your breast
  • any other worrying symptoms, such as nipple discharge
  • a history of breast cancer (in men or women) in close members of your family and you're worried about your chances of getting it

It's very unlikely you have cancer, but it's best to get checked out. Your GP will examine your breast and can refer you for tests and scans for breast cancer if needed.

If you don't have symptoms but have a clear family history of breast cancer, your GP may refer you to a genetic specialist to discuss your risk of getting it.

There are some inherited genes that increase your risk of cancer and a blood test can be done to check for these. Read about testing for cancer risk genes.

Causes of breast cancer in men

The exact cause of breast cancer in men isn't known, but there are some things that increase your risk of getting it.

These include:

  • genes and family history – inheriting faulty versions of genes called BRCA1 or BRCA2 increases your risk of breast cancer
  • taking medicines that increase the amount of a hormone called oestrogen in the body, such as hormone medicines sometimes used for prostate cancer
  • conditions that can increase the level of oestrogen in the body – including obesity, Klinefelter syndrome and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
  • previous radiotherapy to the chest area

It's not certain if you can do anything to reduce your risk, but eating a balanced diet, losing weight if you're overweight and not drinking too much alcohol may help.

Treatment for breast cancer in men

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, the health professional looking after your care will discuss treatment options with you.

The treatment will depend on how far the cancer has spread.

Possible treatments include:

  • surgery to remove the affected breast tissue and nipple (mastectomy) and some of the glands in your armpit
  • radiotherapy – where radiation is used to kill cancer cells
  • chemotherapy – where medication is used to kill cancer cells
  • medicines that help stop breast cancer growing

Treatment with surgery is often followed by one or more of the other treatments. This can help stop the cancer coming back in the future.

Outlook for breast cancer in men

The outlook for breast cancer in men varies depending on how far it has spread by the time it's diagnosed.

It may be possible to cure breast cancer if it's caught at an early stage.

A cure is much less likely if the cancer isn't found until it has spread beyond the breast. In these cases, treatment can relieve your symptoms and help you live longer.

Speak to the health professional treating you, if you'd like to know more about the outlook for your cancer.

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was published May 2018

This page is due for review August 2020

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