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Breast Cancer: Men Get It Too

  • Breast cancer is often thought of as a disease that only strikes women. But men also have breast tissue, which means they can develop cancer in that tissue. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 1 in 726 men will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

    Men and breast cancer risk

    Breast cancer can affect anyone. But according to the ACS, men may be at higher risk if they:

    • Are older—the average age at diagnosis is 72.
    • Have been exposed to radiation in the chest area.
    • Have a history of heavy alcohol use.
    • Have obesity.
    • Have received estrogen-related treatments or have a condition, such as cirrhosis, that leads to increased estrogen levels.  
    • Have close relatives who’ve had breast cancer.
    • Have certain gene mutations, such as inherited changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
    • Have Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic condition.  
    • Have certain testicular conditions or had a testicle removed.

    If you have any of these risk factors, discuss your breast cancer risk with your doctor. Having these risk factors don’t mean a man will develop breast cancer. Your doctor can help you understand your individual risk and how to address it.  

    Symptoms, Testing, and Treatment for Male Breast Cancer

    Women usually get regular mammograms, which can detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. But mammograms aren’t recommended for most men.  

    Instead, male breast cancer is typically detected when men notice a lump or other changes in their chest—which means that male breast cancer is typically more advanced when it’s diagnosed. That’s why it’s crucial to ask your doctor about any lumps or changes to your chest.  

    An early diagnosis may lead to better outcomes, so it’s important to get answers about any suspicious changes.  In addition to a physical exam, a doctor may suggest an ultrasound, MRI, or a biopsy to determine the nature of the lump.

    If cancer is confirmed, testing is done to determine the type of cancer and if it has spread. Based on that information, a personalized treatment plan is created. The standard treatments for male breast cancer are:

    • Surgery.
    • Chemotherapy.
    • Hormone therapy.
    • Radiation therapy.
    • Targeted therapy.
    • Immunotherapy.

    Emotional hurdles

    Male breast cancer is a fairly rare disease, but there’s much to be learned—especially about the emotional challenges men face when diagnosed with it.

    Because it’s often thought of a woman’s disease, men with breast cancer may feel stigmatized or isolated. They may not know anyone else with the condition.  

    At Fox Chase, our dedicated breast cancer team has experience treating men with breast cancer—and supporting them throughout their journey.  You can count on leading-edge, compassionate care. And our social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists specialize in helping people with cancer cope.  

    To request an appointment with a Fox Chase oncologist, call 888-369-2427 or request an appointment online.