What is male breast cancer?

Male breast cancer is when cancer develops in the small amount of breast tissue in a man. Breast cancer in men is rare, but it is possible. Male breast cancer is less than 1% of all breast cancer cases.

While men’s average risk of breast cancer is low, awareness and early diagnosis are still important. Talk to your doctor if you have risk factors or notice any signs of male breast cancer. Our team offers many resources and treatment options to connect you with needed care.

Types of breast cancer in men

Several types of breast cancer can develop in male breast tissue, many of which are the same in females. The most common type of breast cancer found in males is invasive ductal carcinoma—making up as many as 90% of cases. While rare, it’s also possible for males to have invasive lobular carcinoma, ductal carcinoma in situ or inflammatory breast cancer.

If you have a breast cancer diagnosis, your provider will help you understand your specific type of cancer. This is important because your care team has many options to target your care based on the type and stage of male breast cancer you have.

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma

    This common type of breast cancer happens when cancer cells start in the milk ducts and then spread to other areas of the breast tissue. More advanced stages of this cancer may also spread to other parts of the body.

  • Invasive lobular carcinoma

    While not common in males, invasive lobular carcinoma is a type of breast cancer that starts in the milk-producing tissue in the breast, called the lobular tissue, and spreads to other areas.

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

    This male breast cancer starts in the milk ducts and is the least invasive. In situ means the cancer cells are contained within the milk ducts and haven’t spread to other tissues.

Male breast cancer symptoms

Because males are less likely to routinely look for breast cancer symptoms through steps like a breast self-exam, symptoms can go unnoticed for longer. That’s why awareness of the condition and the symptoms of breast cancer in men, especially those with an increased risk, is so important.

As with breast cancer in any person, the most common sign of male breast cancer is a lump in the breast tissue. In men, this is often felt right under the nipple area. Many conditions can cause a breast lump, and often a lump isn’t cancer, but you should always bring up a new lump with your doctor to get checked.

Along with a breast lump, other symptoms to watch for include:

  • Breast pain or nipple pain
  • A lump in the armpit area
  • Any changes in how your nipple looks or nipple discharge
  • Changes in the appearance or shape of the breast area
  • Redness, scaling or a rash around the nipple or breast skin

Causes and risk factors of male breast cancer


For most males, the average risk of breast cancer is very low—about 1 in 1,000. Certain conditions, genetic mutations, natural aging, exposure to radiation or factors like family history can put you more at risk for male breast cancer. But it’s possible to develop male breast cancer without any risk factors. Often, the exact cause of male breast cancer isn’t known.

Hereditary factors can play a role in breast cancer for both males and females. Men with a strong family history of breast cancer, including male breast cancer, may consider asking about genetic counseling to help them better understand their risk. It’s estimated that about 5-10% of male breast cancer diagnoses have a genetic link.


Like many types of cancer, male breast cancer risk increases as you age. It’s most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 70.

Exposure to estrogen

High levels of estrogen can put you more at risk for breast cancer. This includes hormone treatments used for prostate cancer or hormone therapy in transgender women.

Family history of breast cancer

About 1 in 5 males who get breast cancer have a close male or female relative diagnosed with the condition.

Genetic mutations

A person’s genetics are a factor in male breast cancer, including genetic mutations like the BRCA gene. Males with a BRCA2 mutation are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than other men.

Klinefelter's syndrome

People born with Klinefelter's syndrome have an extra X chromosome. This syndrome can affect hormone levels and increase the risk of male breast conditions, including gynecomastia and breast cancer.

Enfermedad del higado

When you have certain liver conditions, including cirrhosis of the liver, it can affect the balance of hormones in your body, which increases the risk of male breast cancer.


If you’ve been diagnosed with obesity, you may also have a greater risk of developing male breast cancer. Obesity often increases the levels of estrogen in your body.

Radiation exposure

Your risk is higher if you’ve had radiation exposure in the chest area—for example, radiation therapy for other cancers.

Testicular conditions

Conditions that affect the testicles, such as an injury to your testicle, testicle removal or undescended testicles, also increase your risk of male breast cancer.

Diagnosing breast cancer in men

When you have signs or symptoms of male breast cancer, your doctor may want to do additional testing to diagnose your condition. Several other conditions can cause symptoms similar to those found in male breast cancer, so a clear picture of your breast tissue and health will help guide your care.

Many diagnostic tests and tools used to evaluate signs of breast cancer in men are the same as those used for any person with breast cancer symptoms. Your doctor may start with an imaging test to closely examine the breast tissue. These imaging tests don’t diagnose male breast cancer but can help decide if you need other testing. The right test for you will depend on your symptoms, risk, age and more.


While screening mammograms aren’t usually recommended for men, those who have symptoms may have a diagnostic mammogram. This test uses X-rays to create images of the breast tissue to look for signs of a breast condition.


A breast ultrasound is another imaging test that helps provide more information about the symptoms of breast cancer in men. Images are created using sound waves; this test may help identify a cyst versus a solid mass in the breast tissue.

Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Breast MRI or magnetic resonance imaging uses radio waves and magnets to provide pictures of your breast tissue from many different angles. Sometimes, you’ll need an injection of dye, or contrast, during this imaging procedure.


You may have a breast biopsy if you have male breast cancer symptoms. Often, a biopsy follows other tests, such as a mammogram. There are several types of breast biopsies, such as a needle biopsy or ultrasound guided biopsy. Every kind of biopsy takes a small sample of the tissue in your breast and sends it to the lab to help diagnose your condition.

Additional imaging tests

You may have additional imaging tests, especially if diagnosed with male breast cancer. Some other imaging tests that help diagnose and stage cancer include:

  • CT scan, which can look for tumors outside of your breast tissue
  • Bone scan, which uses a small amount of radioactive dye to look for signs of cancer in the bones
  • PET scan, or positron emission tomography scan, which provides images of the body using a radioactive tracer

Treatment for breast cancer in men


If you are diagnosed with male breast cancer, rest assured you’re not alone. You have options and support. Treatments for breast cancer continue to advance, and treatment plans are targeted to your specific type of cancer. Your care team will include doctors and other healthcare providers from multiple specialties who work together to care for you.

Your specific treatment will depend on your type of male breast cancer, the cancer stage and other health factors. Some treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or hormone therapy. Through our dedicated research institute, we also provide options for people with a breast cancer diagnosis to enroll in a clinical trial as part of their care.


Chemotherapy uses drugs taken by mouth or injected into the body to help destroy or stop cancer cells from growing. You may have chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, which can be used before or after surgery.

Hormone therapy

Some types of male breast cancers are affected by the hormones in your body. Hormone therapy removes or blocks hormones to prevent cancer cells from growing. Some standard hormone therapies for male breast cancer are aromatase inhibitors, tamoxifen or luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonist.

Terapia de radiación

Radiation therapy may be recommended along with other male breast cancer treatments. It uses high-intensity rays to target and destroy the cells causing your cancer. A type of therapy called external beam radiation is the most used radiation therapy in breast cancer in men.


Surgical procedures to treat male breast cancer include mastectomy, which removes all of the breast tissue, and lumpectomy, which removes only the tumor and surrounding tissues.

The most common surgical treatment for the condition is modified radical mastectomy. This surgery removes all the breast tissue, including the nipple and skin over the breast tissue and lymph nodes under the arm.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapies are customized drugs designed to attack your specific type of breast cancer. Because they are designed to target specific cancer cells, they don’t affect other cells in your body as much as treatments like chemotherapy. Monoclonal antibodies are one of the most common targeted therapies for male breast cancer.

Our breast imaging centers near you

We offer several locations for your care, including imaging centers with tests for male breast cancer symptoms and numerous cancer treatment centers in North and Central Texas.

Finding support as a man with breast cancer

If you have a male breast cancer diagnosis, our team provides you with support for each step of your care and recovery. We offer several cancer support resources, including cancer support groups available to anyone with a cancer diagnosis and their families.

Our patient navigators and social work services are here to connect you with the resources you need to help navigate your care easier. We also offer programs and services that care for you as a whole person—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Learn more about cancer support services

Preguntas frecuentes

  • What does male breast cancer look like?

    Most of the time, male breast cancer looks like a lump or area of thickening in the breast, especially under the nipple. It can also look like redness, puckering or changes in the skin or nipples, including nipple discharge.

  • What is the survival rate for male breast cancer?

    The overall survival rate for male breast cancer is high—more than 80%. According to data from the American Cancer Society, male breast cancer caught in the earlier stages (localized or regional) has a five-year survival rate of 84-95%.

  • What is the most common male breast cancer?

    The most common type of male breast cancer is invasive ductal carcinoma. This type of cancer starts in the milk ducts and spreads, making up 90% of male breast cancers.

  • What age do men usually get breast cancer?

    Between 60 and 70 years old is the most common age range for diagnosing male breast cancer. Aging is one of the main risk factors for developing this type of cancer.

  • Is male breast cancer hereditary?

    Sometimes, male breast cancer is hereditary. About 20% of people who have male breast cancer have a family history of the condition. If you inherit a genetic mutation, such as the BRCA gene mutation, it can also increase your risk.