Breast Cancer in Men

Author: Jess Batten - Communications Officer - February 23, 2022

Men and Breast Cancer

 

A common misconception is that breast cancer only affects women, however men can develop the disease too. Every year around 390 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK compared with over 55,100 women. It is rare, but 1 in 1000 men will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. 

The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it, so make sure you regularly check for the symptoms listed below and book an appointment with your GP if you notice anything unusual.

 

SYMPTOMS 

Breast cancer in men can grow from the small amount of breast tissue behind the nipples. Symptoms of the disease display similarly to those in women. The most common symptom of breast cancer in men is a lump behind or near to the nipple, although the lump may not have always been in this area.

It’s important to be aware of other symptoms, which include: 

  • Swelling or a lump on the chest or armpit
  • A tender or drawn in / inverted nipple
  • Nipple discharge which is often bloodstained, or nipple sores
  • A rash (similar to eczema) on the nipple
  • Ulceration or swelling of the chest area
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm

If you have any of these symptoms we urge you to book an appointment with your GP. For information on how to check yourself, click here.

 

BREAST CANCER RISK FACTORS 

We know that age is the most important risk factor for breast cancer in men. Risk increases with age and most men who are diagnosed are over 60.

Risk is higher in those that have a genetic pre-disposition to breast cancer. For example, someone that has a significant family history of the disease or carries a gene that increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Speak to your GP if you’re concerned about this.

People who are obese have higher levels of the hormone oestrogen in their body and this can play a part in the growth of breast cancer cells.

Chronic liver damage and some genetic conditions such as Klinefelter’s syndrome can also raise oestrogen levels and therefore risk. 

Radiotherapy to the chest, for example to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma, may slightly increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

 

DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT

Following a referral from a GP to a breast cancer clinic, the patient would have a clinical examination followed by an ultrasound scan, or even a mammogram. A biopsy would then be required to diagnose cancer.

Treatment is usually surgery in the first instance, which depending on the size of the tumour could be a mastectomy (which is where the whole breast including the nipple is removed) or a lumpectomy where only part of the breast needs to be removed. Surgery can be followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormone therapy.

To find out more about the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in men, please visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer-in-men/

 

IAN’S STORY

Ian knew that his family had a significant history of breast cancer: his mum, grandma, aunt and sister had all battled the disease. But he wasn’t aware that this meant an increased risk of male breast cancer until his brother received a diagnosis at the age of 36.

‘When my brother was diagnosed, I went to my GP for help and advice, but he didn’t know men could get breast cancer. I still get frustrated at the lack of information available about male breast cancer and the lack of awareness within the medical profession and the general public.’

Following tests at The Nightingale Centre, Ian chose to have preventative surgery to reduce his risk of developing the disease. His experience inspired him to fundraise for Prevent Breast Cancer and he’s a prolific supporter of the charity. Ian can’t stress enough the importance of spreading the word about male breast cancer:

‘It can be embarrassing as a man to talk about what is considered to be a woman’s disease but with the help of Prevent Breast Cancer we can break down these misconceptions and increase survival rates in men by raising awareness and making it easier for men to get an earlier diagnosis and help.

 

HELP US PREVENT BREAST CANCER

Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease.

Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email info@preventbreastcancer.org.uk today.