Breast cancer isn’t a female disease. Everyone has breast tissue, which means anyone can develop breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there’ll be about 2,650 new cases of invasive male breast cancer in the United States in 2021, and about 530 men will die from the disease. Estimates for 2022 have not yet been released as of this article’s publication.

Worldwide, a 2019 study showed that male breast cancer represented about 1 percent of all breast cancers. But research across all stages of the disease showed that men died more often than women.

That’s why it’s so important for everyone to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Early diagnosis matters. Breast cancer is easier to treat before it spreads to distant organs.

Language matters

In this article, we talk about the symptoms of breast cancer in people who are assigned male at birth. It’s important to note that not everyone assigned male at birth identifies with the label “man.” However, at times we use “man” or “woman” to reflect the language in a study or statistic. We also occasionally use “man” or “woman” to make sure people can find this article with the terms they search. When possible, we aim to be inclusive and create content that reflects the diversity of our readers.

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Symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to those of female breast cancer.

Breast lump

Cancerous breast lumps typically occur on only one breast, not both. Here are some other characteristics of a cancerous breast lump:

  • feels hard or rubbery
  • bumpy and irregular rather than smooth and round
  • doesn’t move around under the skin when you press with your fingers
  • usually painless, but not always
  • grows over time

Nipple and skin changes

Without or without a lump, other symptoms of breast cancer are:

  • dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • persistent soreness, rash, or swelling around the nipple
  • scaling of the nipple or surrounding skin
  • nipple turning inward
  • nipple discharge with or without blood

Enlarged lymph nodes

Cancer cells that reach nearby lymph nodes can cause bumpiness or swelling under the arm or around the collar bone.

Symptoms showing that breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body include:

Having one or more symptoms doesn’t mean you have breast cancer. Many of these symptoms could be due to something else.

Keeping in mind that male breast cancer is uncommon, there are a few things that can put you at higher risk. Some risk factors are:

  • Aging. The risk of breast cancer increases with age.
  • Family history. The risk of male breast cancer is higher if you have a close family member who has had breast cancer.
  • Genetic mutations. BRCA2 and BRCA1 gene mutations increase the risk of male breast cancer.
  • Klinefelter syndrome. Klinefelter syndrome is a genetic condition that causes low levels of male hormones and higher levels of female hormones.

Other risk factors include:

  • previous radiation therapy to the chest
  • hormone therapy with estrogen
  • testicular conditions such as undescended testicle or injury to the testicles
  • liver disease
  • heavy alcohol drinking
  • overweight and obesity

About risk factors

Risk factors are things that affect your chances of developing breast cancer. Having one or more risk factors means you’re more likely to get breast cancer than someone who doesn’t. However, you can have several risk factors and never get breast cancer. Or you can get it despite having no known risk factors.

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If you think you have one or more risk factors for male breast cancer, it may be worthwhile to consult with a doctor or geneticist. A large 2019 study suggested that men at a high risk of developing breast cancer may benefit from screening.

You can also start performing regular breast self-exams.

Cancer is easiest to treat when caught early. If you have symptoms of male breast cancer, it’s best to contact a doctor as quickly as possible.