male breast cancer concept
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It's Rare, but Men Get It, Too

All babies are born with breast tissue that contains milk ducts. Though it develops differently over time, both men and women can get breast cancer. Women have a much higher risk. Less than 1% of all breast cancer cases are in men.

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looking in the mirror
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Spot the Symptoms

You might notice a lump or thick area in your breast tissue. You may also spot something different about your nipple, like redness, scales, or discharge. 

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dna strand
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What Causes Breast Cancer in Men?

No one knows exactly what causes male breast cancer. Studies suggest changes in your genes or hormone levels can play a role.

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senior friends
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Your Age

As you get older, your chances of getting male breast cancer go up. The average age of men when they get a diagnosis is 72.

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drinking beer at bar
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Drinking Alcohol

If you're a heavy drinker, it puts you at higher risk for male breast cancer. Alcohol can damage your liver, which could put your hormone levels out of whack. For instance, your estrogen levels may rise, which could raise your chances of getting breast cancer.

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radiation therapy
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Medical Issues That Raise Your Risk

If your chest has been treated with radiation for another type of cancer, you have a greater chance of getting male breast cancer. Your odds also go up if you took estrogen for prostate cancer or have testicular issues like an undescended testicle, surgery to remove a testicle, or you've had mumps as an adult.

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three generations of men
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The Role of Genes

You're at an increased risk if a blood relative -- man or woman -- has had breast cancer. That's also true if you inherited a gene change (called a mutation) like BRCA1 and BRCA2. Klinefelter syndrome, in which boys are born with an XXY chromosome instead of XY, raises your odds of getting male breast cancer 20 to 60 times.

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ductal carcinoma
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Types

Most male breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, or cancer that starts in your milk ducts. Lobular carcinoma, or cancer of the glands that make milk, is even more rare. This is because men have so few of those glands in their breast tissue. Other rare types are Paget's disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer, which makes your breast feel swollen and warm.

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biopsy
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Diagnosis

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor makes a diagnosis based on a combination of tests and procedures. During a breast exam, your doctor looks for visual changes and uses his fingers to feel for lumps. You may have an imaging test, like a mammogram or ultrasound, for an inside look. You may get a biopsy. In this procedure, the doctor uses a needle to remove tissue to check for cancer cells.

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stage iv cancer
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Stages

Your doctor can check the stage of your cancer with bone, CT, or PET (positron emission tomography) scans. Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV. Stage 0 means that the cancer hasn't left the milk ducts. Stage IV means it's spread to other parts of your body. This is also called metastatic cancer. Once you know your stage, your doctor can narrow down your treatment options.

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breast cancer surgery
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Treatment

Surgery is the most common treatment for male breast cancer. It usually involves a mastectomy, which removes your breast tissue, nipple and areola, and any surrounding lymph nodes where the cancer may have spread. Radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy may also be used to slow growth and kill cancer cells.

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mammography
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After Treatment

You'll have follow-up visits after surgery to make sure everything's healing well. You'll also get exams and tests every 3 to 6 months to see if the cancer has come back. If you stay cancer-free for 5 years or more, you may move to a yearly visit. You'll also have an annual mammogram if you still have breast tissue in one breast.

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doctor talking with senior patient
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Pay Attention to Breast Changes

A lot of men aren't aware that breast cancer can be a problem for them. As a result, men are less likely to speak up about breast changes and often get diagnosed at a more advanced stage of breast cancer than women. Always see your doctor if you notice anything unusual in the area of your breast.

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blood draw
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Prevention

If any of your male or female relatives have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you should consider talking to a genetics counselor to see if genetic testing is right for you. A simple blood test can determine if you have certain genes that could make it more likely to get breast cancer. If you do, it's a good idea to get breast exams and mammograms.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 05/07/2019 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 07, 2019

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14) Spencer Grant / Science Source

 

SOURCES:

Susan G. Komen: "Breast Cancer in Men."

National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.: "Male Breast Cancer."

American Cancer Society: "What Is Breast Cancer in Men?"

Mayo Clinic: "Male Breast Cancer."

American Joint Committee on Cancer: "Cancer Staging System."

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 07, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.