Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen. About one percent of breast cancers in the United States occur in men.
Breast cancer risk is much lower in men than in women. The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000 in U.S. men and 1 in 8 for U.S. women [146,151].
Breast cancer rates in U.S. men have remained stable over the past 30 years. In 2013, it is estimated there will be :
- 2,240 new cases of breast cancer
- 410 breast cancer deaths
Prognosis and survival
Prognosis for breast cancer in men is similar to prognosis in women of the same age and cancer stage (more on cancer stage) [153-154].
The five-year relative survival rate for men with breast cancer is 84 percent . This means men with breast cancer are, on average, 84 percent as likely as men in the general population to live five years beyond their diagnosis. The 10-year relative survival rate for men with breast cancer is 72 percent . These rates are averages, though, and vary depending on each person’s diagnosis and treatment.
Breast cancer screening for men
Routine breast cancer screening is only recommended for men at high risk due to an inherited gene mutation or a strong family history (learn more).
Types of breast cancer in men
Most breast cancers in men begin in the milk ducts of the breast (invasive ductal carcinomas). Less often, breast cancers in men begin in the lobules of the breast (invasive lobular carcinoma). Learn more about the anatomy of the breast.
In rare cases, men can be diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (a non-invasive breast cancer), inflammatory breast cancer or Paget disease of the breast (Paget disease of the nipple) [153,155]. Paget disease of the breast is a breast cancer that begins in the milk ducts of the breast tissue and spreads to the skin of the nipple. It can cause a scaly rash on the skin of the nipple. Although rare, it occurs more often in men than in women .
Benign breast conditions in men
Benign (not cancer) breast conditions can occur in men (learn more).
Treatment for breast cancer in men
Treatment for breast cancer in men is similar to treatment for women.
Surgery and radiation therapy
The main treatment for breast cancer in men is mastectomy. Lumpectomy (also called breast conserving surgery) is rarely used because of the small size of a male breast.
Some men may have radiation therapy following surgery, depending upon the stage of the breast cancer.
Learn more about mastectomy and lumpectomy.
Learn more about radiation therapy.
Learn more about breast cancer staging.
Most breast cancers in men are hormone receptor-positive. For men with hormone receptor-positive breast cancers, hormone therapy (with tamoxifen) is usually the first drug therapy used.
Tamoxifen is taken in pill form, every day for at least five years. It can be difficult to complete this long period of treatment. However, to get the most benefit of tamoxifen, it is important to take it for the full course of treatment prescribed by your health care provider. Men who complete the full course have higher rates of survival . If you have any side effects with tamoxifen, talk to your provider. If you have trouble remembering to take tamoxifen, a daily pillbox or setting an alarm on your watch or phone may help . However, you do not need to panic if you miss a day or two.
Learn more about tamoxifen.
Learn more about hormone receptor status.
Learn more about the importance of following your treatment plan.
Chemotherapy and targeted therapy
For men with hormone receptor-negative breast cancer, chemotherapy is usually the first drug therapy used.
For men with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, chemotherapy may be given before tamoxifen therapy, depending on the cancer stage.
Men with HER2/neu-positive breast cancers may be treated with trastuzumab (Herceptin) plus chemotherapy containing a taxane.
Learn more about chemotherapy.
Learn more about trastuzumab.