Male Breast Cancer: Understanding the Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Male breast cancer

Understanding the Male Breast Cancer

While breast cancer is more commonly associated with women, men can also develop breast cancer. Male breast cancer is a rare but serious condition that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. In this article, we will explore the key points about male breast cancer, including its symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

Symptoms: The symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to those of female breast cancer, including a lump or thickening in the breast tissue, changes in the size or shape of the breast, nipple discharge, and changes in the skin around the breast.

Male Breast Cancer Risk Factors

The risk factors for male breast cancer include age, family history, certain genetic mutations, hormonal imbalances, and exposure to radiation or environmental toxins.
Certain factors that may increase the risk of developing breast cancer in men have long been identified.

Men with one or more risk factors should be subject to special monitoring, in order to benefit from an early diagnosis if the disease were to occur. Note that the presence of one or more risk factors known to date is not mandatory for developing breast cancer.


Age is considered a major risk factor, with most men with breast cancer being diagnosed after age 60.


Family history of male and female breast cancers have also been identified as risk factors. The number of relatives who have suffered from cancer, their age at the time of diagnosis, the type of their cancer and their degree of relationship with the patient are all elements to be studied.

The presence of hereditary breast cancers, i.e. caused by mutations in the BRCA genes, is also considered to be a significant risk factor, especially when the mutation concerns the BRCA2 gene.

Hormonal disorders

Certain hormonal disorders, such as Klinefelter syndrome, are also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in men.


Gynecomastia, a disorder corresponding to abnormal development of breast tissue in men. It can be associated with hormonal disorders, is also established as a risk factor.

Adult male with significant gynecomastia. ProloSozz (ProloSozz (talk)), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Obesity, cirrhosis, excessive alcohol consumption and estrogen-based medical treatments (which can be used to fight prostate cancer, for example) are also risk factors.

Radiation or carcinogenic substances

Finally, environmental risk factors could also be involved. This is, for example, the case of exposure to radiation or carcinogenic substances.


Breast cancer can progress completely silently in its early stages. As it develops, it tends to form a painless lump, most often located near or under the nipple.

Discharge or bleeding from the nipple, inversion of the nipple that retracts inward, pain or swelling in the breast, or generally any change in the sensation or appearance of the breast may reveal cancer.

Changes can also appear in the armpit or even the collarbone. The lymph nodes at these sites will tend to swell or be painful.

Although fairly rare, breast cancer in men can be bilateral and the tumors are likely to be multiple. Multiple masses located in both breasts should therefore also alert you.

As the cancer progresses, more general symptoms may appear. Abnormal physical and mental fatigue, bone pain, weight loss, cough, shortness of breath or jaundice (jaundice) are all symptoms of advanced cancer.

Episodes of fever may also accompany local and general symptoms of male breast cancer.


The diagnosis of male breast cancer involves a physical exam, imaging tests such as mammograms or ultrasounds, and a biopsy to confirm the presence of cancer cells.

The diagnosis of breast cancer is made through several medical examinations which will first detect the disease, then better understand and categorize it to determine which treatment protocol is best suited and establish a prognosis.

While breast cancer is often diagnosed incidentally during screening examinations in women, in men it is rather discovered after the patient has noticed an abnormality in one of her breasts and has consulted a general practitioner for this reason.

Usually, a clinical examination is the first step in diagnosis. It is often performed by a general practitioner who questions the patient about their history, profile and symptoms.

When a mass is highlighted, a biopsy is usually prescribed to remove cells and analyze their malignant potential. When visual examination and palpation of the breast reveal no mass, medical imaging can take over to look for a lesion hidden in the deeper tissues of the breast and invisible to the naked eye.

Breast mammography

Mammography is a reference diagnostic tool in the management of breast cancer in men and women. It can both locate a tumor and guide a biopsy.


An ultrasound may also be performed to differentiate a solid, potentially cancerous tumor from a liquid tumor, usually related to a benign cyst. Like mammography, ultrasound can also help guide a biopsy.

The cancer cells taken during the biopsy are then analyzed in the laboratory under a microscope. The anatomopathological analysis of the tumor cells makes it possible to define their stage and their grade, that is to say their degree of evolution and their aggressiveness.

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Treatment of breast cancer in men

The treatment of male breast cancer typically involves surgery to remove the cancerous tissue, followed by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments.

The treatment of breast cancer in men is always personalized, because this disease can evolve in very different ways from one patient to another, and we now readily consider that each cancer is unique.

A multidisciplinary medical team will establish a treatment protocol taking into account all aspects of the disease, but also the profile of the patient and his wishes.

Usually, breast cancer in men is treated the same way as in women. Management is essentially based on surgery, which may be associated, depending on the anatomopathological results, with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapy.


The surgery consists of the mechanical removal of the cancerous tumour. This is removed with a sufficient safety margin, to ensure that cancer cells do not persist in the body. Depending on the stage of the tumor at the time of diagnosis, the surgery performed can be more or less heavy and/or extensive.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is often given in addition to surgery. It consists of irradiating the operated area to eliminate the remaining cancer cells, which are often impossible to locate. This adjuvant radiotherapy, that is to say, which occurs after surgery, effectively reduces the risk of recurrence of breast cancer.

Radiotherapy can also be used alone when surgery is not possible, or even before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor and facilitate its removal.


Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, unlike surgery and radiotherapy. In fact, it eliminates cancer cells wherever they are in the body, even when they are impossible to locate.

It is a drug treatment, which consists of the administration of antitumor substances. It can occur before or after surgery to limit the risk of recurrence.

Chemotherapy can also be used alone, when treatment by surgery and/or radiotherapy is not possible.

Most male breast cancers are hormone receptor positive and respond to hormone therapy. Hormone therapy usually occurs in addition to traditional treatments, such as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

It aims to suppress the action of certain hormones that act as growth factors on the cancerous tumour, such as estrogen in particular.

Hormone therapy

This hormone therapy can be chemical, i.e. drug, or mechanical, or surgical. The removal of the testicles (orchiectomy) is particularly effective in fighting breast cancer in men and preventing recurrences.


The prognosis for male breast cancer depends on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, the type of cancer, and the treatment received. However, the overall survival rate for male breast cancer is lower than for female breast cancer, in part due to the later detection of the disease in men.

Breast cancer in men is a relatively rare disease with a fairly good prognosis. In countries with the most advanced healthcare systems, male breast cancer has a 5-year survival rate of around 80%, a figure very similar to female breast cancer.

The prognosis is always better when the cancer is diagnosed early, it is essential not to neglect any change in the appearance of the chest in men and to consult quickly in the event of an anomaly.

Sources: PinterPandai, Canadian Cancer Society

Photo credit: calibra via Pixabay

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Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.

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