Health Watch -- Male Breast Cancer

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Women aren’t the only ones who need to worry about breast cancer.

Men shouldn’t tune out to breast cancer messages. Although male breast cancer is rare, it kills about 400 men a year.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say men need to be aware of any lumps or changes in the breast areas of their chests. Most male breast lumps are benign, the result of a condition called gynecomastia, which is an excessive development of male breast tissue.

Doctors can tell the difference between these lumps and potentially cancerous lumps using physical exams and mammography. Mammograms are an essential tool for evaluating male breast disease. In some cases, a tissue biopsy may be necessary.

Men who have a family history of breast cancer are at increased risk for developing cancer, themselves. These men should be aware of any changes in their breasts and report the changes to a physician.

Women who have a close male relative with breast cancer are also at increased risk for breast cancer. Men who develop breast cancer are often genetically predisposed to this cancer, and that gene could be present in other family members. Women with close relatives who have had breast cancer – male or female – on either side of the family need to talk to their doctors about their own cancer risk.