Male breast cancer is relatively rare, with approximately 1,600 cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Men with breast cancer are typically diagnosed at a later age than women (average age of diagnosis is 65). The first symptom that most men notice is a painless lump. Additional symptoms might include nipple discharge (possibly bloody), nipple retraction and skin ulceration. For a variety of reasons, men may not seek early treatment for breast cancer. They are unlikely to examine their breasts on a regular basis and, when they notice symptoms, they are more likely than women to delay seeing a physician.
Diagnosis and treatment of male breast cancer is similar to that for women. Surgical treatment is followed, in some cases, by radiation, chemotherapy and/or hormone therapy. Decisions on post-surgical treatment are made on a case-by-case basis and depend on individual factors, including age. As with women, male breast cancer can generally be cured and/or controlled if it is detected early and promptly treated.
A man’s risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Additional risk factors for male breast cancer include:
- Family history of breast cancer (male or female)
- Inherited mutations in certain genes (primarily BRCA2)
- Hyper-estrogenic conditions (e.g., Klinefelter's syndrome)
- Radiation exposure to the chest (i.e. for Hodgkin’s disease)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Liver disease
- Estrogen use