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  • Breast cancer in men

    Breast cancer is rare in men. About 130 men are diagnosed in Australia each year. This represents less than 1% of all breast cancer.

    Breast cancer occurs when the cells lining the breast ducts or lobules grow abnormally and out of control. A tumour can form in the ducts or lobules of the breast. In men the development of the lobules is suppressed at puberty by testosterone, the male sex hormone.

    Men’s symptoms are similar to women’s.


    You may notice a change in your breast or your doctor may find an unusual breast change during a physical examination.

    Signs to look for include:

    • A lump, lumpiness or thickening,
    • Changes to the nipple such as a change in shape, crusting, a sore or an ulcer, redness, unusual discharge or a nipple that turns in (inverted) when it used to stick out.
    • Changes to the skin of the breast such as dimpling of the skin, unusual redness or other colour changes.
    • An increase or decrease in the size of the breast.
    • A change to the shape of the breast.
    • Swelling or discomfort in the armpit.

    In men breast cancer usually occurs over the age of 60. It is most common in men who have:

    • Several close family members (male or female) who have had breast cancer.
    • A relative diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40.
    • Several relatives with cancer of the ovary or colon.
    • A rare genetic syndrome called Klinefelter’s syndrome. Men with this syndrome have three sex chromosomes (XXY) instead of the usual two (XY).

    Inherited breast cancer gene

    Each person inherits a set of genes from each parent. Sometimes there is a fault in one copy of a gene which stops that gene working properly. This fault is called a mutation.

    About one in 20 cases of breast cancer may be caused by an inherited gene fault. The two most common breast cancer genes are called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

    Women in families with an inherited gene change are at an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Men in these families may also be at an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer.

    People with a strong family history of breast cancer can be tested to see if they have inherited a gene change. If you would like to know more about genetic testing talk to your doctor or breast care nurse or call 13 11 20.

    Men who have early breast cancer have similar treatment options to women.

    Want to know where this information comes from? Click here.


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