What is male breast cancer?

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Men are not exempt from breast cancer. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all breast cancer cases, but men at any age may develop breast cancer. The following types of breast cancer are found in men:
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma. Cancer that has spread beyond the cells lining the ducts in the breast. Most men with breast cancer have this type of cancer.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ. Abnormal cells that are found in the lining of a duct.
  • - Inflammatory breast cancer. A type of cancer in which the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm.
  • Paget disease of the nipple. A tumor that has grown from ducts beneath the nipple onto the surface of the nipple.
Treatment options for stage 0 male breast cancer include lumpectomy and radiation or mastectomy. In selected cases, tumor removal alone can be offered. No chemotherapy is needed.
Male breast cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the tissues of the breast. Any man can develop breast cancer, but it is most common among men who are 60–70 years of age. About 1% of all breast cancers occur in men. About 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually, with about 450 deaths due to male breast cancer occurring each year.

Many men may be surprised to learn that they can get breast cancer. Men have breast tissue that develops in the same way as breast tissue in women, and is susceptible to cancer cells in the same way. In girls, hormonal changes at puberty cause female breasts to grow. In boys, hormones made by the testicles prevent the breasts from growing. Breast cancer in men is uncommon because male breasts have ducts that are less developed and are not exposed to growth-promoting female hormones.

Just like in women, breast cancer in men can begin in the ducts and spread into surrounding cells. More rarely, men can develop inflammatory breast cancer or Paget’s disease of the nipple, which happens when a tumor that began in a duct beneath the nipple moves to the surface. Male breasts have few if any lobules, and so lobular carcinoma rarely, if ever, occurs in men.

Men should also be aware of gynecomastia, the most common male breast disorder. Gynecomastia is not a form of cancer, but does cause a growth under the nipple or areola that can be felt, and sometimes seen. Gynecomastia is common in teenage boys due to hormonal changes during adolescence, and in older men, due to late-life hormonal shifts. Certain medications can cause gynecomastia, as can some conditions, such as Klinefelter syndrome. Rarely, gynecomastia is due to a tumor. Any such lumps should be examined by your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.