Understanding Male Breast cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

By Ritu Singh | Updated: Nov 27, 2013, 09:12 AM IST

Ritu Singh

Male breast cancer is a relatively rare cancer in men that originates from the breast. Most people don’t know about it, but men have a small amount of non-functioning breast tissue that is concentrated in the area directly behind the nipple on the chest wall. Cancer of the male breast is the uncontrolled growth of the abnormal cells of this breast tissue.

How common is male breast cancer?

It is a well known fact that breast cancer happens majorly in women. Male breast cancer is a rare condition, accounting for only about 1% of all breast cancers. According to a report in 2010, about 1,970 new cases of breast cancer in men would be diagnosed and that breast cancer would cause approximately 390 deaths in men (in comparison, almost 40,000 women die of breast cancer each year). 


A painless lump or thickening in your breast tissue

Changes to the skin covering your breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling

Changes to your nipple, such as redness or scaling, or a nipple that begins to turn inward

Discharge from your nipple


Ultrasound and mammography are commonly used for diagnosis of Breast cancer. The lump can be examined either by a needle biopsy where a thin needle is placed into the lump to extract some tissue or by an excisional biopsy where under local anesthesia a small skin cut is made and the lump is removed.

Beside the histologic examination estrogen and progesterone receptor studies are performed. Further, the HER2 test is used to check for a growth factor protein.


Surgery is the most common way to treat male breast cancer. The purpose of surgery is to remove the tumor and surrounding breast tissue. Other treatments include:

 Radiation therapy which makes the use of high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells.

Chemotherapy uses drugs or a combination of drugs to kill cancer cells which is administered through a vein in your arm or in the form of a pill.

Hormone therapy is done when it is found out that your cancer uses hormones to help it grow. Hormone therapy for male breast cancer often involves the medication tamoxifen, which is also used in women.