Often patients are surprised to hear that men can get breast cancer. This may be because they do not think of men as having breast tissue. In fact, both men and women have similar breast tissue until puberty. With the onset of puberty in girls, female hormones cause their breasts to grow. In boys, male hormones prevent breasts from growing.
Thankfully breast cancer in men is very rare. Only about 18 -20 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Ireland.
The most common symptom of breast cancer in men is a painless lump in the breast. Other symptoms include nipple discharge (often blood-stained), a tender or pulled in nipple, ulceration or swelling of the breast. Occasionally, the lymph glands under the arm may also be swollen.
Because male breast cancer is rare, a man might ignore his symptoms and put off seeing his doctor. As a result, in some cases the cancer is already advanced when it is diagnosed. The earlier breast cancer is treated the better, so it is important to get any symptoms checked out as soon as possible.