The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Treatment for Male Breast Cancer

Read our blog, Men Get Breast Cancer Too.

Breast cancer can occur in men. You may hear this referred to as male breast cancer. In 2021, it’s estimated 2,650 new cases of male breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. [217].

Men can also be diagnosed with benign (not cancer) breast conditions.

Find more statistics on breast cancer in men.

Prognosis and survival for men with breast cancer

Prognosis

Prognosis (chance of survival) for breast cancer in men is similar to prognosis in women of the same age and cancer stage [218-219].

However, men are often diagnosed at a later stage than women [219-220]. Men do not routinely get screening mammograms and they may be less likely than women to report any warning signs or symptoms of breast cancer. This may lead to a delay in diagnosis [221].

Survival

The 5-year relative survival rate for men with breast cancer is 82 percent [222]. This means men with breast cancer are, on average, 82 percent as likely to live 5 years beyond their diagnosis as men in the general population.

The 10-year relative survival rate for men with breast cancer is 73 percent [222].

Survival rates are averages and vary depending on each man’s diagnosis and treatment.

Types of breast cancer in men

Most breast cancers in men begin in the milk ducts of the breast (invasive ductal carcinomas).

Fewer than 2 percent of breast cancers in men begin in the lobules of the breast (invasive lobular carcinoma) [223].

Men can also 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) [223].

Male breast cancers tend to be hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative [218,223-224].

Learn about the anatomy of the breast.

Genetic testing in men

All men diagnosed with breast cancer should have genetic testing [225].

  • Men who have a BRCA2 gene mutation (and to a lesser degree, men who have a BRCA1 mutation) have an increased risk of breast cancer [225-228].
  • Men who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have an increased risk of prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer [225,227-231].
  • Men who have a BRCA2 gene mutation have an increased risk of melanoma [225,228]

There are special cancer screening recommendations for men with a BRCA2 or BRCA1 gene mutation.

For men with metastatic breast cancer, knowing you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation can help guide treatment.

Your health care provider can recommend a genetic counselor so you can learn more about genetic testing.

Learn more about genetic testing and genetic counseling.

Treatment for male breast cancer

Treatment for breast cancer in men is similar to treatment for women. It includes some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and HER2-targeted therapy.

Surgery and radiation therapy

The main treatment for breast cancer in men is surgery to remove the tumor. This is usually a mastectomy because of the small size of a male breast. Some men may choose to have breast reconstruction.

Some men who have mastectomy may also have radiation therapy after surgery, depending on the stage of the breast cancer.

Sometimes, breast surgery in men is a lumpectomy (also called breast conserving surgery). Men who have a lumpectomy usually have radiation therapy after surgery.

Hormone therapy

Most male breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive [218,223-224].

For men with hormone receptor-positive breast cancers, the hormone therapy drug tamoxifen is usually the first drug therapy used. Tamoxifen is a pill taken every day for 5-10 years.

For men who can’t take tamoxifen, an aromatase inhibitor combined with androgen deprivation therapy may be used to treat hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

Side effects of tamoxifen in men

In men, possible side effects of tamoxifen include [103-105]:

  • Blood clots in the large veins (deep venous thrombosis)
  • Blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli)
  • Cataracts
  • Headache
  • Hot flashes
  • Impotence
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Stroke

Completing hormone therapy

Some men find it hard to complete the long period of hormone therapy treatment. However, to get the most benefit, you need to take the full course of treatment prescribed by your health care provider. Men who complete the full course have higher rates of survival than men who don’t [96].

If you have any side effects with tamoxifen, talk with your health care provider.

If you have trouble remembering to take your medicine, a daily pillbox or setting an alarm on your watch or mobile device (you may be able to download an app) may help [1].

However, you don’t need to panic if you miss a day or two.

Learn more about the importance of following your treatment plan.

Chemotherapy and HER2-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-positive breast cancers may be treated with HER2-targeted therapies (such as trastuzumab (Herceptin)) plus chemotherapy with a taxane.

Clinical trials

Research is ongoing to improve all areas of treatment for breast cancer.

New therapies are being studied in clinical trials. The results of these studies will decide whether these therapies become part of standard care.

After discussing the benefits and risks with your health care provider, we encourage you to consider joining a clinical trial.

Susan G. Komen® Breast Care Helpline

If you or a loved one needs information or resources about clinical trials, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877- 465- 6636) or email clinicaltrialinfo@komen.org.

BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Susan G. Komen® offers a custom matching service to help find clinical trials that fit your needs. 

Learn more about clinical trials

Read the blog, How Do You Thank Someone For Time.

Support for men with breast cancer

Social support is important after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Men with breast cancer may feel isolated. Support groups for breast cancer may only have female members, so joining a support group for men with any type of cancer may be more helpful.

Some organizations offer online support groups and other support resources for men with breast cancer. For example, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Network has online support for men with breast cancer.

Learn more about social support, support groups and support resources.

Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Our Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too brochure has information on risk, diagnosis, treatment and support.
  • Our Mission Moment: Breast Cancer in Men webinar has information from oncologists as well as men with breast cancer.
  • Our other fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.
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Komen Perspectives

Read our perspective on breast cancer in men.*

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*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date.

Updated 05/21/21