Male Breast Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
General Information About Male Breast Cancer
Incidence and Mortality
Estimated new cases and deaths from breast cancer (men only) in the United States in 2013:
- New cases: 2,240.
- Deaths: 410.
Male breast cancer is rare. Less than 1% of all breast carcinomas occur in
men. The mean age at diagnosis is between 60 and 70 years, though men of all
ages can be affected with the disease.
Predisposing risk factors appear to include radiation exposure, estrogen
administration, and diseases associated with hyperestrogenism, such as
cirrhosis or Klinefelter syndrome. Definite familial
tendencies are evident with an increased incidence seen in men who have a number of female
relatives with breast cancer. An increased risk of male breast cancer has been
reported in families in which the BRCA2 mutation on chromosome 13q has been
The pathology is similar to that of female breast cancer, and infiltrating
ductal cancer is the most common tumor type. Intraductal cancer has been
described as well. Inflammatory carcinoma and Paget disease of the nipple
have also been seen in men, but lobular carcinoma in situ has not. Lymph
node involvement and the hematogenous pattern of spread are similar to those
found in female breast cancer. The TNM staging system for male breast cancer
is identical to the staging system for female breast cancer. (Refer to the PDQ
summary on Breast Cancer Treatment for more information.)
Prognostic factors that have been evaluated include the size of the lesion and the
presence or absence of lymph node involvement, both of which correlate well
with prognosis. Whether ploidy and S phase correlate with survival is
uncertain. Estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor status and HER2/neu gene amplification should be reported.
Overall survival is similar to that of women with breast cancer. The
impression that male breast cancer has a worse prognosis may stem from the
tendency toward diagnosis at a later stage.
Treatment Options for Male Breast Cancer
Initial Surgical Management
Primary standard treatment is a modified radical mastectomy with axillary
dissection. Responses are generally similar to those seen in women with breast cancer. Breast conservation surgery with lumpectomy and radiation therapy has also been used and results have been similar to those seen in women with breast cancer. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Breast Cancer Treatment for more information.)
In men with node-negative tumors, adjuvant therapy should be considered on the same
basis as for a woman with breast cancer since there is no evidence that
response to therapy is different for men or women.
In men with node-positive tumors, both chemotherapy plus tamoxifen and other hormonal
therapy have been used and can increase survival to the same extent as in women
with breast cancer. Currently, no controlled studies have compared adjuvant
treatment options. Approximately 85% of all male breast cancers are estrogen
receptor–positive, and 70% of them are progesterone receptor–positive. Response
to hormone therapy correlates with presence of receptors. Hormonal therapy has
been recommended in all receptor-positive patients. Tamoxifen
use, however, is associated with a high rate of treatment-limiting symptoms, such as hot
flashes and impotence in male breast cancer patients. (Refer to the PDQ summaries on Sweats and Hot Flashes and Sexuality and Reproductive Issues for more information on these symptoms.) Responses are generally similar to those seen in women with breast cancer. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Breast Cancer Treatment for more information.)Adjuvant chemotherapy regimens include:
- CMF: cyclophosphamide plus methotrexate plus fluorouracil.
CAF: cyclophosphamide plus doxorubicin plus fluorouracil.
- Trastuzumab (under clinical evaluation).
- Tamoxifen (under clinical evaluation).
Locally Recurrent Disease
Surgical excision or radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy is
recommended. Responses are generally similar to those seen in women with breast cancer. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Breast Cancer Treatment for more information.)
Hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of both have been used with
some success. Initially, hormonal therapy is recommended.Hormonal modalities
- Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonist with or without total
androgen blockage (anti-androgen).
- Tamoxifen for estrogen receptor–positive patients.
- Aromatase inhibitors.
Hormonal therapies may be used sequentially. Standard chemotherapy
combinations of CMF and CAF are recommended after failure of hormonal therapy.
Responses are generally similar to those seen in women with breast cancer. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Breast Cancer Treatment for more information.)
Changes to This Summary (11/19/2013)
The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.
An editorial change was made to this summary.
This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board, which is
editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of
the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More
information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in
maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.
About This PDQ Summary
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of male breast cancer. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.
Reviewers and Updates
This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:
- be discussed at a meeting,
- be cited with text, or
- replace or update an existing article that is already cited.
Changes to the summaries are made through a consensus process in which Board members evaluate the strength of the evidence in the published articles and determine how the article should be included in the summary.
The lead reviewer for Male Breast Cancer Treatment is:
- Beverly Moy, MD, MPH (Massachusetts General Hospital)
Any comments or questions about the summary content should be submitted to Cancer.gov through the Web site's Contact Form. Do not contact the individual Board Members with questions or comments about the summaries. Board members will not respond to individual inquiries.
Levels of Evidence
Some of the reference citations in this summary are accompanied by a level-of-evidence designation. These designations are intended to help readers assess the strength of the evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. The PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board uses a formal evidence ranking system in developing its level-of-evidence designations.
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National Cancer Institute: PDQ® Male Breast Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malebreast/HealthProfessional. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.
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