Breast Cancer in Men

A common misconception is that breast cancer only affects women, but in reality, men can also develop breast cancer. Understanding the signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men can help with early diagnosis. Read on as Rajiv Dave explores more.

This page refers to the male anatomy, but we also have information available on how breast cancer appears in women and transgender chest awareness.

Breast cancer in men

How Common is Breast Cancer in Men?

Breast cancer in men is rare but still can happen. Whilst it usually occurs in men over 60, it can occur in younger men. Less than 1% of breast cancer diagnoses within the UK are males.

Males account for about

of breast cancer cases in the UK.

In the UK, around

men are diagnosed
every year.

This compares to around

women diagnosed
a year.

Breasts, Chest, Pecs… Whatever You Call Them, Check Them.

The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it. Whilst mammograms are not routinely offered to males, it’s important to know how to check for breast cancer in men. If you notice any unusual changes, book an appointment with your GP to address your concerns. 

Signs & Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men

If you have any of these symptoms, we urge you to book an appointment with your GP.

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 all the symptoms, which include:

Swelling or a lump on
the chest or armpit

male breast cancer symptom

A tender or drawn in /
inverted nipple

male breast cancer symptom

Nipple discharge
which is often
bloodstained, or
nipple sores

male breast cancer symptom

A rash (similar to eczema)
on the nipple

male breast cancer symptom

Ulceration or swelling
of the chest area

male breast cancer symptom

Swollen lymph nodes
under the arm

male breast cancer symptom

What Does a Breast Cancer Lump Feel Like in Men?

If you notice a lump in your chest or armpit, we urge you to book an appointment with your GP. A cancerous lump is usually hard, painless and does not move around within the chest. The likelihood of your lump being cancer is low, but it is vitally important that you get your symptoms checked by a doctor.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Men

  • 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 to the lymph glands in the armpit is usually performed at the same time. Surgery can be followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormone therapy.

Find out more about the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in men on the NHS website.

Coping With Breast Cancer

Coping with a diagnosis of breast cancer can often be difficult with the mental and physical strain it can take. More-so with breast cancer in men as it’s not as common as breast cancer in women. Speaking to a loved one or health care professional can help you come to terms with the diagnosis and they may help you connect to other people who know what you’re going through.

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:

About 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 us today.

on February 29, 2024.

on December 21, 2023.

on February 29, 2024.

on December 21, 2023.