Breast Cancer in men

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men

There are a number of symptoms which might suggest that a man has breast cancer. All of these could be caused by other conditions too, so if men experience any of these symptoms it is a good idea to see the doctor, who can advise whether further tests are needed. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the long-term prospects.

Most commonly, the first symptom of breast cancer that a man notices is a painless lump around the nipple where most of the breast tissue is in a man’s breast. Lumps can be in another area of the chest too.
Other symptoms include:
  • Some change in the nipple.
  • This could be that the nipple flattens or turns inwards (inverted nipple).
  • The nipple may become itchy, or it might bleed or ooze some other discharge (liquid).
  • A rash affecting the nipple.
  • The nipple might become tender or painful.
  • Changes in the size or shape of the breast.
  • Swelling of the breast or a lump in the armpit.
  • An ulcer or sore on the breast.
  • Occasionally the first symptom that a man notices is a swollen lymph node under the arm.
Many of the men we interviewed noticed a lump when they were having a shower. Because they had not been aware that men could get breast cancer, some of them did not see their GP for several months (see Going to the GP and being referred to hospital). Some men were immediately worried that their lump might be a symptom of something serious, whilst others initially looked for other explanations, such as a cyst or fatty tissue. Some men had had no other obvious symptoms when they first became aware of their lump.
Although many lumps which turn out to be breast cancer are painless and have no other associated symptoms, some men were conscious of other sensations, discomfort or symptoms.
In addition to feeling a lump Mohammad noticed that he was bleeding from his nipple.
The first symptom that some men noticed was an inverted nipple, without or before finding a lump. They often first spotted this change in their nipple whilst they were showering, looking in a mirror whilst they were shaving bare-chested, or whilst they were getting dressed or undressed. A lack of pain sometimes meant that men waited some time before asking a doctor about their inverted nipple.
A few men had had very longstanding breast symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms had stayed the same over many years, and the men only went to see their doctor when they noticed some change.
Some of these men had spoken to a doctor about their symptoms some years before they were diagnosed. They had either been reassured or received normal test results. In either case, it was only when they noticed additional symptoms that they went back again to their doctor to have it checked again.
One man had the very unusual experience of consulting a doctor about 3 or 4 hard lumps which he had felt on one side of his chest. These proved to be just duct growths, but he was given a mammogram on both sides (this was the policy of his local health authority). This revealed that he had a pea-sized malignant lump on the other side of his chest that he might otherwise have missed.
 
Three men discussed having a recurrence of breast cancer. One man had an ache under his arm, another had found a lump and the third had had an itchy nipple. They were all given more treatment.
Several men advised others not to delay seeing their GP if they noticed any unusual breast symptoms.
More information on breast cancer in men, including symptoms, can be found at: breastcancer.org
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in women

Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated October 2013.

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