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 2023, it’s estimated 2,800 new cases of male breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. .
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 (chance of survival) for breast cancer in men is similar to prognosis in women of the same age and cancer stage [229-230].
However, men are often diagnosed at a later stage than women [230-231]. Men do not routinely get screening mammograms and they may be less likely than women to report warning signs or symptoms of breast cancer. This may lead to a delay in diagnosis .
The 5-year relative survival rate for men with breast cancer is 84% . This means men with breast cancer are, on average, 84% 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 74% .
Survival rates are averages and vary depending on each man’s diagnosis and treatment.
Learn more about survival rates.
Types of breast cancer in men
Most breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas (the cancer begins in the milk ducts of the breast).
Fewer than 2 percent of breast cancers in men are invasive lobular carcinomas (the cancer begins in the lobules of the breast) .
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) .
Male breast cancers tend to be hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative [229,234-235].
Learn about the anatomy of the breast.
Genetic testing in men
All men diagnosed with breast cancer should have genetic testing .
- Men who have a BRCA2 inherited gene mutation, and to a lesser degree men who have a BRCA1 mutation, have an increased risk of breast cancer [236-240].
- Men who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer [236,238,240].
- Men who have a BRCA2 inherited gene mutation have an increased risk of melanoma [236,239,241]
There are special cancer screening recommendations for men with a BRCA2 or BRCA1 inherited gene mutation.
For men with metastatic breast cancer, knowing you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited 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, HER2-targeted therapy, CDK4/6 inhibitor therapy, immunotherapy and/or PARP inhibitor 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 a 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.
Most male breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive [229, 234-235].
For men with hormone receptor-positive breast cancers, the hormone therapy drug tamoxifen, with or without the CDK4/6 inhibitor abemaciclib (Verzenio), 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 [102-104]:
- Hot flashes
- Loss of sex drive
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood clots in the large veins (deep venous thrombosis)
- Blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary emboli)
- Skin rash
Completing hormone therapy
Tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment is prescribed for 5-10 years. The length of treatment along with side effects can make it tough to complete 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 .
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 .
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, HER2-targeted therapy, immunotherapy and PARP inhibitor 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.
Some men with triple negative breast cancer may get the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
Some men who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation and have HER2-negative breast cancer may get the PARP inhibitor olaparib (Lynparza).
Read the blog, How Do You Thank Someone For Time.
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 the standard of 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 email@example.com.
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BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Susan G. Komen® offers a custom matching service to help find clinical trials that fit your needs.
Learn what else Komen is doing to help people find and participate in breast cancer clinical trials, including trials supported by Komen.
Learn more about clinical trials.
Support for men with breast cancer
Social support is important after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Men with breast cancer may feel alone. 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