Breast Cancer in men

Reconstruction for breast cancer in men

Most men who develop breast cancer have surgery to remove their tumour. Because in general men have much less breast tissue than women, it is usually necessary to remove all of the breast tissue and the nipple on the affected side (a mastectomy) when their breast cancer is detected. Sometimes it is necessary to remove muscle as well. Men who have had a mastectomy or who have had a nipple removed may be offered or may want some form of reconstruction after their operation.

Not all of the men had been offered reconstruction. One man who hadn’t been given the option of reconstruction said it would have been nice to have had the choice. In many cases it seemed that discussion of whether the men might want reconstruction had been completely overlooked.
The men who had been offered some form of cosmetic procedure (either a tattooed nipple or more extensive reconstructive surgery) were glad they had been given the choice but all of these men had chosen not to have it for various reasons.
Some men chose not to have reconstruction because they didn’t want to have more surgery.
Several of the older men said that the loss of their nipple and breast tissue didn’t bother them at their age, although they recognised that it might matter more to a younger man.
Others explained that they no longer took their shirt off in public places very often so exposing their scar was not a concern for them. However, a few men said there were some situations where they did feel uncomfortable about having their bare chest on view to other people, such as swimming (see also ‘Effect of breast cancer on men’s body image’).
Several men thought that they didn’t need reconstruction because the loss of breast tissue was less noticeable for them than it would be for a woman.
Some of the men had shown their scar to others to prove that they had breast cancer and had had a mastectomy. Ben said, “I haven’t had [reconstruction], but it’s alright with a bloke. It’s a bit of war damage if you like’. Alan called it his ‘Vietnam war wound’, and another commented that men could always say, ‘look at my scar’.
Bill was the only man who had reconstruction. When it wasn’t offered to him he asked if he could have cosmetic surgery. He said he felt like ‘Oliver Twist’ asking for more and he was angry that it was not routinely offered to him as it would be to a woman. When he phoned to make an appointment with the plastic surgeon, the secretary assumed that he wanted to make an appointment for his wife. Bill eventually had two new nipples tattooed onto his chest and he was very pleased with the result.


Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated October 2013.

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