Male breast cancer

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Many people do not realize that men have breast tissue and that they can develop breast cancer. Male breast cancer is rare, accounts for about 1% of all cases.

The treatment of male breast cancer is similar to female breast cancer with the exception that surgery, for obvious reasons consists of mastectomy and the majority of males will require post operative radiotherapy. The indications for chemotherapy, Herceptin and hormone therapies are the same (see treatment of breast cancer).

Presenting features: Usually presents as a lump in under the nipple or an eczema like rash around the nipple.  Not all cases of breast swelling (known as gynaecomastia) are cancer, other causes include:

Other causes of breast swelling in males (gynecomastia): This is common among teenage boys, it is due to changes in hormone balance during adolescence. It can be uncomfortable but as long as no discrete lump is felt usually no treatment is needed as it tends to resolve spontaneously. Tumours or diseases of certain endocrine (hormone-producing) glands cause a man's body to produce more estrogen (the main female hormone).  Diseases of the liver, which is an important organ in male and female hormone metabolism, can change a man's hormone balance and lead to gynaecomastia. Obesity may be another cause of elevated estrogens in men. Some drugs can cause gynaecomastia - used to treat prostate cancer (casadex, stilboestrol) ulcers and heartburn, high blood pressure, and heart failure. A rare genetic disorder called Klinefelter syndrome, can lead to gynaecomastia and increase a man's risk of developing breast cancer.

Risk factors: In most cases the cause is unknown but some associated risks include the following.

Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.

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