Questions Answered: Can Men Develop Breast Cancer?

“Dr. Manny, why is it that when we talk about breast cancer, it’s always a reference to women’s breast cancer? Men have breasts, too. Why don’t they develop breast cancer?”

Good point. Most people don’t realize it, but men can develop breast cancer, too. All cells in the body can undergo cancer, including a man’s breast cells. But because women have many more breast cells than men do, and perhaps because a woman’s breast cells are constantly exposed to the growth-promoting effects of female hormones, breast cancer is one hundred times more common in women than in men.

Still, each year, there are almost 2,000 cases of invasive breast cancer in men, and, stage for stage, the survival rates are equal in men and women. Men usually do not get mammograms, but self-examination is important. Most breast lumps in men are due to gynecomastia, the most common male breast disorder. Gynecomastia is an increase in the amount of a man’s breast tissue due to hormonal changes, but it is not cancer.

Follow-up is very important for anyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Women should be checked every three to four months. The longer they are free of disease, the better their long-term prognosis. After their five-year anniversary, they may need to see their doctor only once a year.

Take breast cancer seriously. It’s a very deadly disease. But it’s also very curable if caught early in the game.