Find out about breast cancer in men including signs and symptoms.
Breast cancer in men is rare. Around 350 men are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK compared with over 55,000 women. However, the earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it, so it’s important to look out for any unusual changes and get them checked by your doctor right away. Around 80 men die from breast cancer in the UK every year.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men
Checking your breast tissue regularly is especially important for men who have a family history of breast cancer or a genetic condition called Klinefelter’s Syndrome. Most breast tissue in men is concentrated in the area directly behind the nipple and the surrounding pigmented area, called the areola. Most – though not all – breast cancers in men appear near the nipple as firm lumps.
Unusual changes to look out for
Fig. 1: a lump behind or near your nipple, or in your armpit
Fig. 2: a change in the appearance of your nipple or areola (including change in direction of nipple)
Fig. 3: nipple discharge or nipple sores (ulcers)
Men and boys can sometimes develop more breast tissue than normal due to a relatively common condition called gynaecomastia. This is not related to breast cancer but can make the detection of a lump during physical examination harder.
If you notice any unusual changes to your breast tissue, check them with your doctor. Your doctor will check your symptoms and may refer you for tests at a hospital clinic if needed.
This is important because if you do have breast cancer, you can begin treatment right away, which gives you the best possible chance of beating it.
Breast cancer in men is diagnosed using much the same approach as diagnosis in women, including clinical examination, imaging (a mammogram or ultrasound) and possibly a biopsy.
Roy’s breast cancer story
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. It was my wife who spotted that my nipple was looking odd. She said, “Why’s your nipple turned in on itself?”
“It didn’t hurt. But my wife urged me to get an appointment with our GP as soon as possible. My GP quickly referred me for more investigations and I had a physical examination, scans and a biopsy.
“I think my positive mental attitude made it easier for the consultant to tell me that I had breast cancer. I was shocked. Like most men, I didn’t think it could affect men.
“My cancer was quite aggressive and the consultant estimated it had already been growing for six months so I had a mastectomy, I had the lymph nodes in my right armpit removed and I had chemotherapy and then radiotherapy.
“I knew that with the support of my wife and family, I would get through all the treatment and be stronger for it. My wife Teresa is a nurse and was able to care for me when I came out of hospital.
“After I’d finished radiotherapy, I started taking tamoxifen and I’ve been having mammograms every six months to check for any recurrence.
“In 2016, I reached the milestone of five years clear of cancer and I feel well. Now I only need to have a mammogram every three years. I’m in a good place and I’m not worried about the future. I would advise any man to go straight to the GP if you feel something’s not natural for you or if you notice something new in your breast area.”
For more information on breast cancer in men, see Breast Cancer Care's Men with Breast Cancer guide
If you’d like to learn more about the research being carried out on breast cancer in men, read about the Male Breast Cancer Study
Information last reviewed: June 2016
Next review due: June 2019
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