Did you know men get breast cancer too?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

October is breast cancer awareness month. Pink publicity is plentiful for female breast cancer. But did you know men can get breast cancer too? If you answer no, you are one of many people who are unaware that men can develop breast cancer.


Male vs female breast cancer - lower rates but poorer outcome

Around 400 men a year in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer1. This may seem low compared to the 55,000 women who are diagnosed with the disease every year. But it is still high.

What’s more, men are typically diagnosed with breast cancer at an older age and at a more advanced stage. This often results in poorer outcomes for men with breast cancer. So, it is vital that men become aware of the signs of breast cancer and when to see their GP.


What to look for when checking your chest

There is very little research and no routine screening specifically for male breast cancer. This means that most men find breast cancer by self-checking their chests or just noticing changes.

It’s advisable that men check their chests every month. Here are the symptoms of male breast cancer for men to look out for:

A lump or swelling – in or near the chest including the armpit

Inverted or tender nipple

Nipple discharge - may be blood-stained

Sores or rash on or around the nipple

Breast size or shape changes

Reddening, hardening, or dimpling of the nipple or surrounding skin area.


Causes of breast cancer in men

The exact causes of breast cancer in men are not fully understood. However, certain things increase the risk.

Age – male breast cancer is most common in men over 60. Although younger men can be affected, it is rare.

Family history - about 1 in 5 men with breast cancer (20%) have a close relative who has also had breast cancer2. Close relatives are parents, children, brothers, and sisters. This may be because of inherited faulty genes. The genes most linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in families are BRCA1 and more commonly BRCA2.

Higher oestrogen levels – that can occur in men because of long-term liver damage such as liver cirrhosis, obesity, and some genetic conditions such as Klinefelter syndrome.

Radiation – men who have had chest radiotherapy, for example, to treat Hodgkin lymphoma, may have a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer.


When should I see my GP?

If you feel or see any changes in your chest, get checked by your doctor. Don’t be complacent and don’t wait. Don’t ignore chest changes because of perceived stigmas and fear of emasculation.

Try not to worry. Remember, 80% of lumps found are not cancerous3. Your doctor can either put your mind at rest or get you an early diagnosis and treatment if needed.

Remember, men diagnosed and treated early for breast cancer typically have a much better outcome and survival rate than if left.

You should also talk to your GP if you’re concerned about your family history. Your doctor can examine you and take into consideration any other risk factor information. Since breast cancer in men is rare, most men who have risk factors never develop breast cancer.



1 https://www.breastcanceruk.org.uk/reduce-your-risk/breast-cancer-in-men/

2 https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/breast-cancer/risk-factors-for-breast-cancer-in-men

3 https://walkthewalk.org/health/men-get-breast-cancer-too

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