How Are Men Affected by Breast Cancer?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2023

While the majority of breast cancers occur in women, breast cancer can develop in men. In 2023, an estimated 2,800 men were predicted to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Though less than 1 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in men, breast cancer in men is more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage. This may be due in part to awareness of male breast cancer being lower, and men who do find a lump may delay in seeking diagnosis.1,2

Survival for men with breast cancer is similar to women with breast cancer and is based on the stage of the disease. However, men have a higher mortality rate from breast cancer than women. This is because it is often diagnosed at later stages of the disease in men. In 2023, an estimated 530 men were predicted to die from breast cancer.1-3

Risk factors of advanced breast cancer in men

Risk factors are identified features that may increase a person’s likelihood of developing a disease. However, risk factors do not necessarily cause breast cancer. Men are more likely to develop breast cancer if they have:2,4

  • A family history of breast cancer, especially those with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
  • Previous radiation therapy to the chest
  • Obesity
  • High levels of the hormone estrogen
  • Klinefelter syndrome (a rare genetic syndrome)
  • Excess breast tissue (gynecomastia)

Symptoms of advanced breast cancer in men

Like breast cancer in women, breast cancer in men often presents with a lump in the breast tissue. Other symptoms may include:2,5

  • A change in the skin of the breast, like redness, scaly skin, or puckering
  • Discharge from the nipple

Any changes like these should be discussed with a doctor.2,5

Types of advanced breast cancer in men

Most breast cancers in men are invasive ductal carcinomas. These are cancers that develop from the ducts.2,3

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is another condition that may occur in men. This is sometimes referred to as pre-invasive cancer. In DCIS, the abnormal cells have not spread beyond the duct. However, if they are not treated, they can develop into invasive ductal carcinoma.2,3

Other rare forms of breast cancer that may occur in men include:2,3

  • Paget disease of the nipple, which develops in the ducts and spreads to the nipple and areola
  • Inflammatory breast cancer, which is a rare type of breast cancer that causes the breast to become red, warm, and swollen

Tests used to diagnose advanced breast cancer in men

Several tests may be used to diagnose breast cancer in men, including:3,6

  • Clinical breast exam – An exam where the doctor feels the breast tissue and under the arm
  • Mammogram – An X-ray taken of breast tissue while the breast is compressed between 2 plates
  • Ultrasound – A screening that uses sound waves. This can help distinguish between fluid-filled cysts or solid lumps.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – A scan that uses magnets and radio waves to create pictures of internal structures in the body
  • Nipple discharge test – A test where any fluid that is coming from the nipple is examined under a microscope
  • Biopsy – A procedure in which cells or the tumor is removed from the body to be examined under a microscope

Treatment of advanced breast cancer in men

Like breast cancer in women, treatment options for breast cancer in men may include:3

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