This blog will give you regular, high-quality information about cancer. You'll also get to meet the info team and get updates on our projects. We hope you find it useful. And if there are any topics you'd like us to blog about, just let us know.
In this blog, cancer information nurse Richard runs through the symptoms of breast cancer in men, how it is diagnosed and treated, and where to go for support.
It may come as a surprise to many people but men can get breast cancer. It is very rare but men (and those who love them) should be aware of the symptoms so that advice and treatment can be sought early, when there’s a better chance of cure.
How rare is it?Breast cancer in men is very rare. In 2015, about 400 men were diagnosed with breast cancer compared to nearly 55,000 women.
The numbers are small, which means that awareness of this type of cancer is low. As a result, men may not link the symptoms to breast cancer, until the cancer is more advanced. So it's really important that everyone knows what symptoms to look out for.
But how can a man get breast cancer?All men have a small amount of breast tissue just behind the nipples where breast cancer can develop.
What symptoms should men be aware of?The first symptom that most men notice is a painless lump under the nipple or areola (the darker area around the nipple).Other symptoms to be aware of are:
You’ll know how your chest area normally looks and feels. If you notice any change that lasts for a couple of weeks, you should see your GP straight away. Breast cancer is rare, so symptoms are usually caused by other things. But you should always get them checked to be sure.
What are the risk factors for breast cancer in men?Some of the risk factors are the same as for women, but others are only relevant to men.
The risk factors are:
If you have symptoms – go and see your GP. Breast cancer in men is so rare that your GP may think the symptoms are something else. But don’t be put off going again if the symptoms don’t go away.The tests to diagnose breast cancer in men are like those used for women. This will usually include:
If a cancer is found, further tests are done to check if it has spread.
And how is it treated?The treatment that is recommended will depend on your situation. Your doctor will explain. The main treatments are:
Getting supportAlthough breast cancer is not rare, it can be difficult for men with breast cancer to find support. Most of the breast cancer support services are aimed at women, and you may never meet another man with breast cancer. This may leave you feeling isolated.
Your breast care nurse will be a good source of support, and may be able to put you in contact with another man who has had breast cancer.
You may also be able to find support online. You could try our Online Community.
You can also call us at Macmillan. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.
You may find it helpful to read our information about breast cancer in men. We can also send you a copy of our booklet, Understanding breast cancer in men.
To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.
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The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.
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Great blog its so important that men are made aware of what to look out for with breast cancer. Because sadly I hear too often that they are unaware or embrassed to get checked out.
While my dad was in the hospice we met a guy who had breast cancer. We all became really good friends. Unfortunately my dad and him passed away within 2 days of each other.
Was a shock to hear he had breast cancer as u never really think of men having it.
Hi GBearThank you for your comment. We're glad you liked the blog. We hope it helps spread awareness of the signs and symptoms, and encourages people to speak to their doctor if they notice any changes.
Thanks and have a good day,
Hello Doris777p,Thanks for getting in touch. We're sorry to hear about your dad and his friend passing away. If you want to talk, please call our support line on 0808 808 00 00. It's free, and calls are confidential. You can just call for a chat if you like. Lines are open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm.
I hope you're finding the Online Community a good source of support. You may already know, but we have an online group for bereaved family members. You may want to join that to speak to other people and share experiences, if you think it would be helpful.
Hopefully this blog helps spread awareness of breast cancer in men, and encourages people to speak to their doctor about any changes to their body.
All the best,Liza
How about starting a group in this community specifically for male breast cancer? Although there may not be many people who use it, unless there is such a group the invisibility of the condition will be perpetuated and the few males who are directly affected by it and who look at the community will feel even more isolated. I guess that many breast cancer support groups are perceived as "women only" spaces
I was shocked to see a report last year referring to "the largest group of men who have had breast cancer to have gathered in the UK" and the number amounted to 6! I wonder if any of these men would be interested in helping to get a group off the ground in the Macmillan online community?
I think it's also important to raise awareness of male breast cancer's existence to women, particularly those who have breast cancer themselves so they don't assume "women only" spaces, and those with a BRCA2 mutation who may have male relatives at relatively high risk of breast cancer.
I think the most important message is for men to go to your GP and don't let them dismiss it as just breast tissue. Insist on further tests. It had taken a lot of nagging to get my husband to get his lump checked out so when the GP dismissed it he wouldn't go back until several years later when it was visible and very painful. Men, don't hide your head in the sand, listen to your families and seek help. Sadly, in my husbands case being stubborn meant that it had spread. Despite years of treatment it continued to spread and he died from metastatic breast cancer in march this year.
Thanks for your comment. I have passed on your feedback about a breast cancer group for men to the Online Community team. We do9 hope men would feel able to join our breast cancer forum to post and share too, but we know it can be isolating to be diagnosed with a cancer that many people assume can only happen in women.
We hope this blog helps to raise the awareness of male breast cancer to men and women.
Thanks and all the best,
Thanks for your comment. We’re pleased that you read the blog, and hope it helps to encourage more men to speak to their GP if they notice any of the changes we mention.
We’re sorry to hear about your husband. We hope you’re finding some support here on the Online Community. But please do call us for a chat on 0808 808 00 00 if you would like to talk to someone. Line are open Monday to Friday, 9am until 8pm. Everyone copes differently, but you may find our group for bereaved spouses and partners a space you’d like to join also.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and share your story. All the best,
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