Though boys and girls begin life with similar breast tissue, over time, men do not have the same complex breast growth and development as women. At puberty, high testosterone and low estrogen levels stop breast development in males. Some milk ducts exist, but they remain undeveloped, and lobules are most often absent. However, breast problems, including cancer, can occur in men.
Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen. In the U.S., about 1% of all breast cancer cases occur in men. In 2013, it is estimated that among men in the U.S., there will be:
- 2,240 new cases of invasive breast cancer
- 410 breast cancer deaths
Rates of breast cancer incidence (new cases, including new cases of primary breast cancer among survivors, but not recurrence of original breast cancer among survivors) and mortality (death) are much lower among men than among women. Survival rates for men are about the same as for women with the same stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. However, men are usually diagnosed at a later stage because they are less likely to report symptoms.
The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a painless lump or thickening in the breast or chest area. However, any change in the breast or nipple can be a warning sign of breast cancer in men including:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast, chest or underarm area (usually painless, but may be tender)
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling, puckering or redness of the skin of the breast
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of the nipple (inverted nipple) or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge
If you notice any of these signs or other changes in your breast, chest area or nipple, see your health care provider right away. Some men may be embarrassed about a change in their breast or chest area and put off seeing a provider, but this may result in a delay in diagnosis.
Survival is highest when breast cancer is found early … this is true for both men and women!
For more information on breast cancer in males please visit: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FactsForMen.html.