January 23, 2024

Treatment Options for Male Breast Cancer

Understanding and Treating Breast Cancer in Men: A Comprehensive Guide

While breast cancer most commonly affects women, it can also occur in men, with male breast cancer accounting for 1 out of every 100 cases. Breast cancer in men, while rare, requires specialized understanding and treatment. Our NJ reconstructive surgeons explore the options for men battling this disease.

What is Male Breast Cancer?

Male breast cancer originates in the breast tissue of men, most commonly in the milk ducts or glands. While the specific causes are still being studied, risk factors like BRCA genetic mutations, radiation exposure, high estrogen levels, and liver disease are known to increase chances. Male breast cancer represents about 1% of all breast cancer cases. The average age of diagnosis is between 60-70 years old.

The two most common types of breast cancer in men are:

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma: Cancer cells begin in the ducts and spread to other parts of the breast tissue. They may also metastasize to other parts of the body.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): The cancer cells are only in the lining of the ducts and have not spread to other parts of the breast tissue. This type can lead to invasive breast cancer.

Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men and Early Detection

Catching male breast cancer early is critical to successful treatment. If you notice any persistent breast changes, schedule a clinical breast exam and screening mammogram right away. Catching cancer early, before metastases occur, greatly improves the prognosis. Be on the alert for these common signs of breast cancer in men:

  • A firm, painless lump in the breast tissue. This is the most common symptom. Lumps are often found closer to the nipple.
  • Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling
  • Discharge from the nipple – especially bloody discharge
  • Inverted or sore nipple
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone

Stages of Male Breast Cancer

Staging evaluates how far the cancer has spread. Treatment plans and outlook depend heavily on the stage. 

Stage I

  • The tumor is 2 cm or less and has not spread to lymph nodes or distant sites
  • 5-year survival rate: 98% 

Stage II

  • The tumor is 2-5 cm or small clusters of cancer cells are found in the nearby lymph nodes
  • 5-year survival rate: 84%

Stage III

  • The tumor has spread to several lymph nodes near the breast or to other tissue near the breast
  • 5-year survival rate: 67% 

Stage IV (metastatic)

  • The cancer has metastasized to distant organs like the lungs, liver, bones or brain
  • 5-year survival rate: 20%

Treatment Options for Breast Cancer in Men  Male-chest-exam-white-shirt

The approach to treating breast cancer in men will depend on many factors, including the cancer type and stage, the patient’s age, health, and preferences, and whether there are known mutations in inherited breast cancer genes. Treatments for breast cancer in men are similar to those for female breast cancer but may be adjusted based on male hormone differences. Our surgeons work as part of the overall care team that will guide you to make the best treatment decisions for you.

Though each person’s case is unique, the general steps for treating male breast cancer may involve:

  • Surgery: For both DCIS and stage 1 invasive breast cancer, surgery to remove the tumor is the recommended first step. Doctors will remove the entire tumor as well as some healthy tissue surrounding it to maximize the chances of getting all the cancer cells. Microscopic cancer cells may remain in some cases, and additional surgery could be required.
  • Preoperative therapy: For larger tumors or certain subtypes of cancer, doctors may recommend systemic therapy before surgery. These therapies can include chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and more. Having other therapies before surgery may make surgery easier to perform or could provide access to new options through clinical trials.
  • Adjuvant therapy: This is treatment given after surgery. The goal is to reduce the risk of recurrence and eliminate any remaining cancer cells in the body. Therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and more.

Our compassionate reconstructive surgeons work with your cancer team to craft personalized multi-modal plans to eradicate the cancer while retaining as much healthy tissue as possible.

Empowering Men in Their Breast Cancer Journey

At Premier Surgical Network, we understand how a breast cancer diagnosis poses unique emotional challenges for men. Our entire surgical team provides specialized, sensitive care to men before, during, and after their breast cancer treatment journey. We will support you with our experienced surgical care to help you beat your diagnosis and embrace everything life has to offer.

Schedule a consultation today to learn more about NJ reconstructive surgery after breast cancer at our advanced plastic surgery center!