Male Breast Cancer  [return to the list of articles]

"Men don't have breasts, they can't get breast cancer or other breast diseases."

This is a common misconception. The fact is all humans have breasts; in women, the breasts develop due to stimulation by estrogen and in men the breasts remain very small just under the nipple.

Men can have problems with their breasts. The most common problem seen in men is "gyneocomastia" which is an overgrowth of breast tissue. This presents as pain in one or both breasts with a lump under the nipple. There are a few causes which can include: excessive hormone production or stimulation due to alcohol abuse or steroid use. Cortical medications have side effects which can cause the breasts to enlarge.

Men can also develop breast cancer. About 1% of all breast cancers are in men. For every 100 women who get breast cancer, one man will get breast cancer.

Male breast cancer can present as a lump, pain in the breast or a skin ulcer that does not heal.

Breast cancer in men is treated the same way as in females with surgical removal of the breast and the lymph nodes under the arm. Chemotherapy and radiation are also used to help prevent the spread of the cancer.

On a stage for stage basis, men do as well as women in surviving breast cancer, however, men usually ignore the symptoms longer and present at a later stage( more extensive disease) than women. Screening mammograms also help women to detect breast cancers at an earlier stage than men.

If you are a male and notice a new lump, pain or a skin lesion near your nipple, see your doctor. These can be the signs of a significant problem.

-- Anthony M. Carrato, M.D.