Breast cancer in men

1. Can men get breast cancer? 
2. Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer
3. What causes male breast cancer?
4. How male breast cancer diagnosed
5. How male breast cancer treated
6. Living with and beyond breast cancer
7. Sex and intimacy for men
8. Where can I find information on male breast cancer?
9. Support for men with breast cancer

1. Can men get breast cancer?

Men can get breast cancer but it’s very rare. Around 390 men are diagnosed each year in the UK (compared to around 55,000 women). Most men who get breast cancer are over 60, although younger men can be affected.

Breast cancer in men is sometimes called male breast cancer.

Do men have breast tissue?

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. 

Breast cancer in men is cancer that starts in this small amount of breast tissue.

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2. Signs and symptoms of male breast cancer

The most common symptom is a lump. This is often painless and is usually 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.

Other symptoms of male breast cancer include:

  • liquid (sometimes called discharge) that comes from the nipple without squeezing, often blood-stained
  • a tender or inverted (pulled in) nipple
  • ulcers (sores) on the chest or nipple area
  • swelling of the chest area and occasionally the lymph nodes (glands) under the arm

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

If you notice a change to your breast tissue or nipple, see your GP as soon as you can. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome may be.

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3. What causes male breast cancer?

The exact causes of breast cancer in men are not fully understood, but certain factors may increase the risk. These include being older and having a significant family history of breast cancer. Find out more about risk factors for male breast cancer.

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4. How male breast cancer is diagnosed

If you have any symptoms of breast cancer, your GP will refer you to a breast clinic for further tests. Find out more about how breast cancer in men is diagnosed.

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5. How male breast cancer is treated

Treatment for breast cancer may involve surgery, hormone therapy, radiotherapy, and sometimes chemotherapy and targeted therapy. These treatments may be given alone or in combination. Find out more about treating breast cancer in men.

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6. Living with and beyond breast cancer

Being diagnosed with breast cancer and having treatment can be an extremely stressful time.

Although our information mainly talks about women, you may find it useful to read our information on:

You may also find it useful to read our information aimed at men about telling people you have breast cancer.

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7. Sex and intimacy for men

Being diagnosed with breast cancer and having treatment can affect how you feel about sex and intimacy. This might be because of the side effects of some treatments, or because you’re feeling anxious or stressed about your cancer. Find out more about sex and intimacy during and after treatment for male breast cancer.

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8. Where can I find information on male breast cancer?

Because breast cancer in men is rare, less is known about the experiences of men with breast cancer. 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. You may also find Macmillan’s Understanding breast cancer in men booklet useful.

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9. Support for men with breast cancer

Our support services, including our free Helpline, are available to men with breast cancer. You can talk on the phone or by email to another man who has had breast cancer through our Someone Like Me service, or you can chat to other people going through breast cancer on the ‘Men with breast cancer’ section of our online discussion Forum.

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Last reviewed: June 2017
Next planned review begins 2019

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Please note that we cannot respond to comments. If you have any questions about breast cancer please contact the Helpline on 0808 800 6000.

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