Breast cancer is uncommon in men, but it does happen. About one per cent of all diagnosed cases of breast cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand will be in men, with around 25 men diagnosed each year.
Initial symptoms of breast cancer in men can include:
- a lump or lumpiness around your nipple
- a change in the shape of your nipple or breast area
- bleeding from the nipple
- pain in the nipple or pectoral area
- skin changes such as redness, rash, ulceration, puckering or dimpling
- a lump in your armpit
If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help straight away. Many men assume that only women can get breast cancer and either do not seek help or are too embarrassed to seek help.
Many men who are diagnosed with breast cancer feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell others about the disease, again because it is a disease that is most often associated with women. Some men feel they may be ridiculed or that their masculinity will be questioned because they've been diagnosed with breast cancer. Friends, family and supporters will never make you feel like this. Start by telling close friends and family about your disease so that they can support you through this difficult time.
Surgery for men with breast cancer is usually a mastectomy which involves the removal of all breast tissue, the nipple and areola. It may also involve the removal of lymph nodes and possibly some of the chest muscle, although this is rare.
Follow up treatment may include radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. You can find out more about these treatment options under the treatment section of this website.
Some men may also be offered hormonal treatments, such as tamoxifen, to control the levels of oestrogen in the body which may be helping the cancer to grow.
You may also like to look at our support pages for more information on how to cope with the physical and emotional changes a breast cancer diagnosis brings. There's information on our Sex, Relationships and Breast Cancer page on how to deal with effects on your intimate relationships.
Find out more
For more information, you may like to check out the following links:
- Australian website, Cancer Australia has a special website devoted to breast cancer in men.
- The New Zealand Cancer Society, Te Kahui Matepukupuku o Aotearoa, produces a booklet on breast cancer in men. They also have an updated more general resource on Cancer and Men.
- You may want to get a copy of a useful book, Male Breast Cancer, Taking Control, written by US cancer expert Professor John Boyages MD, PhD.