Do Men Get Breast Cancer?

When people think of breast cancer, they generally think of it affecting women. However, in rare circumstances, breast cancer can affect men, most commonly in a form called ductal carcinoma. Regional Cancer Care Associates is a provider of world-class cancer care for many different types of cancer, including rare forms like ductal carcinoma, for patients in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, DC, area. Here, we discuss breast cancer in men and how it can be treated.
Man holding up a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness

About Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a disease that begins in the cells of the breast and that causes these cells to grow out of control. The breast has different parts, and there are different types of breast cancer. The type depends on where in the breast the cancer cells have developed. Parts of the breast and their corresponding cancers include:

  • Lobulesare the glands that make breast milk, and cancers that start in this area are called lobular cancers.
  • Ductsare small canals that carry the milk to the nipple, and cancers that originate here are called ductal cancers. Ductal breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer.
  • The stroma is the fat and connective tissue that surrounds the ducts and lobules and prevents them from moving. Phyllodes tumors are a rarer type of cancer that can start in the stroma.
  • Blood vesselsand lymph vessels also are found in each breast, and cancer that starts in the lining of these vessels is known as angiosarcoma, a less common type of breast cancer.
  • Nipples are where the ducts come together to allow milk leave the breast. There is a rare type of breast cancer called Paget disease of the breast that can originate in the nipple.

Breast cancer can also be classified based on whether or not it has spread. In situ breast cancer is a pre-invasive growth that starts in a milk duct and hasn’t spread outside of the breast tissue. The most common type of in situ breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ.

Invasive breast cancers are breast cancers that have spread into the surrounding tissue. Invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma are the most common types of invasive breast cancer. Invasive ductal carcinoma accounts for around 70 to 80 percent of all breast cancers.

Breast Cancer in Men

There is a common misconception that men can’t get breast cancer. In fact, they can. Although breast cancer is far more common in women, it can also affect men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one percent of breast cancers diagnosed in the US are in men. In men, breast cancer usually forms in the small amount of breast tissue behind the nipples. It is most often diagnosed in men over age 60, but it can also afflict younger men. There are two main types of breast cancer in men:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS):As noted, this is a pre-invasive breast disease. In DCIS, the cancer cells are found only in the lining of the ducts. DCIS is also known as stage 0 breast cancer. The cells haven’t yet spread to other tissues in the breast. However, without treatment, they can spread and eventually develop into invasive breast cancer.
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma:This cancer starts in the ducts and continues to grow outside the ducts into other breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body.

Men can also get rarer forms of breast cancer, such as Paget’s disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer, but these are much less common. The treatment and outlook for breast cancer in men depends on the type of cancer, the stage of cancer, and other factors, such as the man’s age and any other medical conditions he may have. At Regional Cancer Care Associates, we offer cancer care support throughout the treatment process for men, women, and families affected by cancer.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men

Many people are familiar with the symptoms of breast cancer in women; those signs are not too different in men. Symptoms often include changes in the appearance of the breast or feeling lumps or other irregularities, including:

  • A lump in or near the breast, which is usually hard and painless
  • Swelling in the breast or lymph nodes under the arm
  • Dimpling or puckering on the breast skin
  • A tender or inverted nipple
  • Nipple discharge
  • A sore or rash around the nipple that does not go away

Because men have less tissue in their breasts, they may be able to feel a lump more easily than women. Several of these symptoms can be caused by other health problems, but men should not ignore them, especially if they’re prolonged. Men who are experiencing symptoms of breast cancer should schedule an appointment with their doctor to get examined and referred for further tests, if needed.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Men

The causes of breast cancer in both women and men aren’t fully known, but there are risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing the disease. Risk factors for men developing breast cancer include:

  • Age: Men older than age 60 have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, although younger men can also develop it.
  • Family history: Men who have female relatives with breast cancer have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Genetics: Men who inherit certain gene mutations, called BRCA1 or BRCA2, have a higher chance of developing breast cancer.
  • Increased estrogen levels: Men with increased estrogen levels, whether from conditions like cirrhosis or Klinefelter syndrome or from estrogen treatments, can have a higher risk of breast cancer.
  • Previous radiation exposure: Men who have undergone previous radiotherapy to the chest area can have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Other factors that may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in males are heavy alcohol intake and obesity. Although a person may have risk factors, that doesn’t mean he or she will get the disease. Likewise, some people can have no risk factors and still develop breast cancer.

Diagnosing Breast Cancer in Men

When men have symptoms of breast cancer and visit a primary care doctor, they’ll be given an examination of their breasts and nearby lymph nodes. If a physical exam finds anything concerning, a doctor may schedule one or more diagnostic tests, such as:

Mammogram

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray used to identify any lumps or abnormalities in the breast tissue. During a mammogram, the breasts are gently compressed between two plates attached to an X-ray machine. The breasts are flattened, and many two-dimensional images of the breasts are taken for the doctor to review. If a man has very little breast tissue, a mammogram can be difficult to perform, but other test options are available.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a technology that uses sound waves to create images of the breasts. These images can provide more insight into masses found during mammograms or physical exams, such as determining whether a mass is solid or filled with fluid. If a mass is solid, it may need further testing, such as a biopsy, to determine whether it is cancerous.

Biopsy

A biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of tissue is removed to test whether it is cancerous. A core needle biopsy is the most common type of biopsy used to diagnose breast cancer. It uses a wide, hollow needle to remove several small pieces of breast tissue from the suspicious area so they can be tested in a lab.

A fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is often used to determine whether breast cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Using a thin, hollow needle attached to a syringe, the doctor will take a small amount of tissue and test it to see whether it contains cancerous cells. This type of biopsy is easier, but it isn’t as precise as a core needle biopsy.

Please note: Regional Cancer Care Associates is not involved with the initial identification, screening, and evaluation of possible breast cancer. We accept referrals from physicians after patients have been diagnosed to provide them with high-quality cancer treatment  close to home. We also offer second opinions on diagnoses and treatment plans, if needed.

Treatments for Breast Cancer in Men

Once a man has a confirmed breast cancer diagnosis, he can discuss treatment options with his oncologist and medical team to decide on the best option for his case. Possible treatments include:

  • Surgery: The main method of treatment for male breast cancer is surgery, usually a modified radical mastectomy. This involves removing the breast, some of the lymph nodes under the arm, the lining over the chest muscles, and more tissue, if necessary.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high levels of radiation to shrink or kill cancer cells that may not have been removed during surgery. It can be used alone or in combination with surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses strong medication to prevent cancer cells from growing or reproducing. It can also kill cancer cells, and it can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments.
  • Hormone therapy:Hormone therapy uses specific hormones to kill cancer cells, slow the growth of cancer cells, or stop cancer cells from growing.

Often, oncologists may recommend one or more treatments to offer the best possible outcome and to prevent the cancer from recurring. The success of treatment and the outlook for breast cancer in men depends in large part on how far the cancer has spread before diagnosis.

Cancer Treatment at Regional Cancer Care Associates

Regional Cancer Care Associates was founded in 2012 with the merger of ten separate oncology practices. The oncology network has grown even further since then. Our mission is to provide patients with world-class medical care close to home, at our more than 20 locations throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, DC area.

We’re committed to offering comprehensive medical care, from cutting-edge therapies and innovative treatments to clinical trials. At Regional Cancer Care Associates, we serve more than 26,000 new patients annually, as patients trust in the high-quality care we provide. There are numerous reasons why patients choose to get cancer care at our facilities, including:

These are just a few of the reasons why patients come to Regional Cancer Care Associates for their cancer treatment and other medical care.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Men diagnosed with breast cancer can experience shame, stigma, and loneliness, but working with a dedicated medical team can help you choose the best possible treatment option and address any accompanying emotional issues. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with male breast cancer, consider getting your cancer treatment at Regional Cancer Care Associates.

With more than twenty locations throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, DC, area, Regional Cancer Care Associates is the place to go for world-class cancer care, patient support, and caregiver education. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call 844-346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

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