While significantly less common in men than in women, men can develop breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2023, approximately 2,800 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 530 will die from the disease. The ACS also estimates that about 300,000 women will be diagnosed and more than 43,000 will die of the disease this year. One in 833 men will develop breast cancer in his lifetime.
Risk factors include aging, a family history of breast cancer, inherited genetic mutations, heavy drinking, liver disease and obesity. To reduce your risk, keep a healthy weight with consistent exercise, a diet rich in vegetables and low in processed meats, and limit or avoid alcohol use. If you feel you are at elevated risk for breast cancer, bring this to your doctor's attention. If you have a strong family history of breast, ovarian, colon or prostate cancer or have family members with certain mutations in the BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene 1) and BRCA2 gene, you may benefit from genetic testing.
Early detection can be lifesaving. In general, men are diagnosed at more advanced stages of breast cancer because of later detection. Self-exams play a key role as routine screening mammograms are not usually performed on men. Male breast cancer often presents as a lump or swelling behind the nipple and areola. However, not all lumps in the breast may be cancer. Other signs and symptoms include nipple discharge, retraction, and skin dimpling or swollen lymph nodes in the armpit. If you notice any of these changes, please contact your doctor, who will examine you and may send you for further testing.
Further testing includes diagnostic mammogram and breast ultrasound. If these tests show any findings that are suspicious, a biopsy will be recommended. If the biopsy reveals cancer, different therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and/or immunotherapy may be offered, depending on the type and stage of the breast cancer.
Remember: early detection is key. If you feel something, please say something to your doctor.
Also note that emotional support and additional resources are available for men diagnosed with breast cancer and their families. The Gilda’s Club Westchester and American Cancer Society offer in-person and virtual services to help men during and after cancer treatment.