Breast cancer in men

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Breast cancer in men is rare. Around 350 men are diagnosed each year in the UK (compared to nearly 55,000 women).

Most men who get breast cancer are over 60, although younger men can be affected.

Symptoms

Symptoms of breast cancer in men include:

  • a lump, often painless. This is the most common symptom. It’s usually near the centre, close to the nipple, because most of the breast tissue in men is beneath the nipple. But lumps can also occur away from the nipple
  • nipple discharge, often blood-stained
  • a tender or drawn in (inverted) nipple
  • ulceration or swelling of the chest area.

Occasionally, the lymph nodes (glands) under the arm may also be swollen.

The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome may be, so it’s important to get any symptoms checked out as quickly as possible.

Breast tissue in men

Many people don’t know that men can get breast cancer because they don’t think of men as having breasts. In fact, both men and women have breast tissue, although men have much smaller amounts than women. 

Men’s breast tissue can also become enlarged because of a benign (not cancer) condition called gynaecomastia.

What causes breast cancer in men?

The exact causes of breast cancer in men are not fully understood, but certain factors may increase the risk. These are called risk factors.

The most important risk factor is increasing age. Find out more about the risk factors for male breast cancer.

Diagnosis

Once your GP has carried out an examination, they may refer you to a breast clinic for further tests.

You can read more information about how breast cancer in men is diagnosed, including tips on coping if you’re diagnosed with breast cancer.

The most common type of breast cancer in men is called invasive ductal breast cancer.

Treatment

Treatment for breast cancer may involve:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • targeted therapy.

These treatments may be given alone or in combination.

Find out more about treating breast cancer in men.

After treatment

When you reach the end of hospital-based treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you may have follow-up appointments at the hospital or with your GP (local doctor) or open access to the breast clinic.

Find out more about follow-up after treatment.

Your health and wellbeing

Eating a healthy diet and doing some physical activity can have many benefits for people who have had breast cancer. There’s information on our website about:

Being diagnosed with breast cancer and having treatment can be extremely stressful and can lead to anxiety and worry. You may also like to read our tips on managing stress and anxiety.

Finding information about men with breast cancer

Because breast cancer in men is rare, less is known about the experiences of men with breast cancer and most of the available information about breast cancer is aimed at women. It also means that most of the research into breast cancer and its treatments has been carried out in women.

While much of the information on our website is relevant to men with breast cancer, some of it addresses topics that will only affect women.

Our Breast cancer in men resource pack contains information about diagnosis, treatment and beyond that’s aimed specifically at men. It also contains quotes from men who’ve had breast cancer.

You can download or order a copy of the pack

Content last reviewed February 2014; next planned review 2016

Last edited:

02 May 2014