Can Men Get Breast Cancer?

15 May, 2024

This article is reviewed by Dr. Mahesh Bandemegal, Senior Consultant – Surgical Oncology in HCG Cancer Centre, Bengaluru

Table of Contents


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. This is not news.

But what if we say that even men can be diagnosed with breast cancer?

You heard us right!

In this article, we are trying to shed light on various aspects of breast cancer diagnosis in men. By understanding how breast cancer occurs, how it is detected, and how to reduce its risk, it is possible for men to put themselves a step ahead of breast cancer.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer?

Let us start by answering the burning question, “Can men be diagnosed with breast cancer?”

The answer is – Yes, men can get breast cancer. The reason for this is that men also have breast tissue. Both female and male genders have breast tissue during the fetal development phase.

During the puberty phase, male and female genders start showing hormonal differences, and this leads to differences in the size, development, and functions of breast tissue in both genders.

To reduce the risk of breast cancer and effectively manage it, it is important to obtain a better understanding of breast cancer.


Since men have breast tissue, they can get diagnosed with breast cancer. However, male breast cancer is of rare occurrence. Not ignoring the symptoms and seeing a doctor for timely treatment are crucial for successful male breast cancer treatment.

Understanding Breast Cancer in Men

When the cells present in the breast tissue start dividing abnormally and form a tumor, it is referred to as breast cancer.

There are different types of breast cancer; however, in men, invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type. Invasive ductal carcinoma starts in the milk ducts and spreads to nearby tissue. The chances of men getting breast cancer are significantly low, and there are multiple reasons for this. Less breast tissue, differences in hormone levels, and various lifestyle factors contribute to the lower incidence.

Prevalence of Male Breast Cancer (MBC) in India


Multiple reports have suggested that male breast cancer, or male breast carcinoma, contributes 0.5–1.0% of all breast cancer cases. In most cases, this condition is diagnosed in men aged over 60, according to a study.

As per one study, a significant number of MBC cases are diagnosed in intermediate to advanced stages (stages 2, 3, and 4).

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men

Early detection is the key to receiving timely treatment and having better survival rates. Therefore, it is important for men to not ignore any symptoms that could indicate breast cancer and promptly see a doctor for a thorough evaluation.

The following are the important male breast cancer symptoms:

  • The presence of a lump in the breast and armpit areas
  • Changes in the appearance and texture of the breast skin and nipple
  • Irritation in the breast skin
  • Skin dimpling
  • Nipple discharge
  • Pain in the breast

In most cases, MBC forms either in the right breast or the left breast (unilateral). However, it may simultaneously occur in both breasts (bilateral).

Why do Men Get Breast Cancer?

The exact causes of breast cancer in men are yet to be identified. However, certain factors, which are known as risk factors, have been identified, and men with these risk factors have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.


A lot of factors contribute to increased breast cancer risk in men, and they include hormonal imbalance, inherited genetic disorders, obesity, family history of breast cancer, history of radiation therapy or hormone therapy, and history of certain testicular conditions.

How to Detect Breast Cancer in Men?

Doctors recommend several tests to detect and diagnose breast cancer in men. The diagnosis begins with a physical examination and medical history assessment, wherein the doctor tries to understand the cause of the breast-related symptoms.

Further, depending on the observations of the physical examination, doctors will recommend the following tests to accurately diagnose breast cancer in men:

  • Clinical breast examination
  • Ultrasound
  • Biopsy
  • Lymph node evaluation
  • Imaging tests

A mammogram is not commonly recommended for men, as they have less breast tissue. That said, in some cases, doctors may ask male individuals who are suspected to have breast cancer to undergo mammograms as well.

Male Breast Cancer Treatment

Once the diagnosis of MBC is confirmed, staging is done to understand the extent of the disease. After determining the stage of the disease, a customized treatment plan is created based on factors such as the type of MBC, its stage, the patient’s age and health status, and their preferences.

The following are the commonly recommended treatments for breast cancer in men:




Surgery is the most commonly recommended treatment for MBC. This treatment involves the removal of the tumor through surgery. Depending on the stage of the cancer, there are three surgical options available:

Lumpectomy: This procedure involves the removal of the tumor and a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it, called the margin.

Mastectomy: It is a standard treatment option for men, and it involves the removal of the entire breast.

Lymph node excision: During the surgery, the breast cancer surgeon may remove nearby lymph nodes to check if the disease has spread to them.

Here is Dr. Mahesh Bandemegal talking about the key aspects of breast cancer:

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves targeting the breast tumor with powerful radiation beams. It is often used along with other treatments, namely surgery and chemotherapy. It helps destroy the residual cancer cells and reduces the risk of recurrences.


Chemotherapy is another important treatment option for MBC, where powerful anti-cancer drugs are administered intravenously to destroy cancer cells throughout the body.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is also a treatment option for breast cancer in males. This treatment involves using drugs that specifically target the cancer cells by identifying specific protein structures and cellular pathways that are particular to them. Targeted therapy is more precise and reduces damage to healthy tissues.

Hormone Therapy

MBCs are hormone receptor-positive in most cases, and therefore, it is one of the most promising treatment options for this condition. The treatment may involve blocking the effects of estrogen, which is responsible for cancer growth, thereby helping reduce the risk of recurrences.

Clinical Trials

Those MBC patients who have exhausted all their treatment options can opt to enroll in clinical trials. Not all patients are eligible for clinical trials; however, those who are eligible will have access to new anti-cancer drugs, treatment approaches, etc. even before they are available on the market.

Clinical trials are conducted under the supervision of experienced clinical investigators, and patient safety will always be a priority.


Male breast cancer is treatable. Different treatment options available for MBC include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormone therapy. Patients can also consider clinical trials if they have exhausted all their treatment options.

How to Prevent Breast Cancer in Men?

Complete prevention of male breast cancer is not possible. However, certain modifications to the lifestyle can help reduce its risk. The following are some of the MBC preventive measures:

  1. Refraining from tobacco and alcohol consumption
  2. Maintaining a healthy weight
  3. Managing hormonal imbalances effectively
  4. Paying attention to liver health
  5. Opting for regular health check-ups
  6. Performing regular self-breast examinations

These measures not only help in reducing MBC risk but also aid in its early detection.

Gynecomastia vs Male Breast Cancer

Both gynecomastia and male breast cancer lead to lump formation in the breast, and therefore it is easy for them to be confused. The following table lists the difference between these two conditions:

Parameters Male Breast Cancer Gynecomastia
Definition Growth of malignant breast cells and formation of a tumor Non-cancerous
Malignancy Cancerous Non-Cancerous
Symptoms Lump formation, changes in skin texture and appearance, nipple discharge, and pain. The presence of a lump and swelling.
Causes Obesity, hormonal imbalances, genetic factors, tobacco, and alcohol consumption, etc. Hormonal imbalances, certain medical conditions, and medications.
Treatment Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and clinical trials Treatment may not be required in most cases. In some cases, breast reduction surgery is performed.
Prognosis Treatment results depend on the disease’s stage. Early-stage MBCs have better outcomes. Good treatment results due to its benign nature.

When to See a Specialist

Paying close attention to the symptoms is important, as it helps in the timely detection of breast cancer in males. When symptoms related to male breast cancer are observed, they should not be ignored, especially if they are persistent and do not go away with medications. Seeing a specialist will help you have a proper evaluation done and make informed health decisions.


Male breast cancer, although rare, is an alarming condition. There is also a significant lack of awareness about this topic among the male population. Raising awareness about the occurrence of male breast carcinoma, its symptoms, risk factors, and the tests and treatments available for its management is important for the effective management of breast cancer in men.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is male breast cancer hereditary?

Yes, in some cases, male breast cancer is hereditary. Therefore, those men who have a family history of breast cancer should consider consulting a doctor to check if they are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Those men who have been identified as “high-risk individuals” for breast cancer may consider regular self-breast exams and health check-ups.

  1. Should men undergo mammograms regularly?

Since male breast carcinoma is a rare occurrence, mammography is not recommended as a routine screening test for men.

However, for those categorized as “high-risk individuals” and those who have been showing symptoms of breast cancer, doctors may recommend mammograms.

  1. What does male breast cancer feel like?

Those with male breast cancer may have a painless lump, thickening in the breast tissue, changes in the nipple, skin dimpling, redness, and pain.

If these symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, one should see a doctor for a proper evaluation.

  1. What is the survival rate for male breast cancer?

The survival rates for male breast cancer are excellent, provided the cancer is diagnosed in its early stages. Early-stage MBCs have better survival rates than advanced-stage MBCs.

Therefore, it is important not to ignore any signs of male breast carcinoma and to get them checked by a specialist.

  1. Does gynecomastia increase breast cancer risk?

Gynecomastia is a benign condition that causes breast swelling in men. A few reports suggest that gynecomastia may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer in men.

That said, it is not always going to lead to MBC. If you have gynecomastia and are concerned that it increases your breast cancer risk, please talk to a specialist.

  1. What does breast cancer in men look like?

The symptoms of breast cancer in men can vary from one patient to another. Breast cancer in men may generally look like the following:

  • The presence of a lump in the breast tissue
  • Changes in the appearance and texture of the breast skin
  • Unusual discharge from the nipple
  • Changes in the shape of the nipple
  • Pain in the breast or nipple

These symptoms can be caused by benign breast conditions as well, and therefore a proper evaluation from a specialist is necessary.

  1. Is breast cancer in male curable?

The chances of a successful breast cancer treatment and its curability depend on factors, such as the stage at which it was detected and treated, the type of breast cancer, the presence of specific hormone receptors, the patient’s age, and the overall health of the patient.

In general, survival rates are excellent if MBC is caught and treated in the early stages.

  1. What age does breast cancer start in men?

Although male breast cancer can be diagnosed at any age, it is more often seen in men aged 60 and above.

  1. What is the survival rate of male breast cancer?

According to American Cancer Society reports, the 5-year survival rate for male breast cancer stands at 89%.

When diagnosed and treated in the early stages, the survival rates for MBC are excellent.

  1. Can a 25-year-old man get breast cancer?

Yes. Although rare, a 25-year-old man can be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Irrespective of age, it is important for one to be aware of the different signs and symptoms of male breast cancer and see a doctor when alarming signs are observed.

  1. Is breast cancer in men serious?

Breast cancer in men is a serious condition, as it is a malignant condition that tends to spread nearby and distant organs in the body.

However, if it is detected early, it is possible to treat this condition successfully and men can lead a normal life.


Male Breast Cancer Treatment: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/hp/male-breast-treatment-pdq

Breast Cancer in Men: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/men/index.htm

Male Breast Cancer in India: Series from a Cancer Research Centre: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809860/

Male Breast Cancer - A two years experience in a Rural Regional Cancer Centre: https://www.bibliomed.org/mnsfulltext/69/69-1497599738.pdf?1711517636

Presentation and Spectrum of Male Breast Cancer in a Rural Cancer Center in a Subunit of Tata Memorial Center, India: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34295077/

Author Bio

Dr. Mahesh Bandemegal

MBBS, MS (General Surgery), MCh (Surgical Oncology)
Senior Consultant – Surgical Oncology
HCG Cancer Centre, Bengaluru.

Dr. Mahesh Bandemegal is a highly experienced surgical oncologist in Bangalore. He specializes in the surgical management of various types of cancer. He is an expert in performing breast conservation surgeries (BCS), oncoplasty and breast reconstruction. ological and oncological needs.

Dr. Mahesh is also a certified robotic surgeon skilled in managing cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, and rectum, and performing lung and mediastinal surgeries. He also treats peritoneal malignancies through cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC. At HCG, Dr. Mahesh has devised several unique protocols for breast cancer management, and he is an asset to the organ preservation team.

To book an appointment with Dr. Mahesh, please click here.

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