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HomeYour HealthConditionsCancerBreast CancerMale Breast CancerBreast Cancer in Men –
It's Not Just Women

Published on Oct, 2022

Last reviewed on Sept, 2023
Authored by Pfizer Medical Team

When most people think of breast cancer, chances are they don’t think of men. Most of what we see and hear about breast cancer focuses on women. Although it is uncommon, men can and do get diagnosed with breast cancer. In Australia in 2022, there were an estimated 205 cases of breast cancer in males1.

In New Zealand, around 25 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.2

The good news is that 87% of Australian men who are diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive 5 years later.3

Most People Don’t Know That Male Breast Cancer Exists

Many people are unaware that men can develop breast cancer because they do not think of men as having breasts. The fact is, both men and women have breast tissue. Men have less breast tissue than women do and most of it is found behind the nipple. Cancer can occur in male breast tissue.4

Male breast cancer is uncommon and makes up less than 1% of all cancers in men. This makes it hard for researchers to study male breast cancer. There is also less information and resources available for men with breast cancer as compared to women.5

Differences That Affect Early Detection of Breast Cancer Between Men And Women

Because men have less breast tissue than women, lumps may be easier to find. Unfortunately, having less breast tissue also means that the cancer can spread more easily to the nipple, overlying skin, chest muscles and lymph nodes. Men may also put off seeing a doctor and have larger tumour sizes at diagnosis. These factors may contribute to a poorer outcome for men with breast cancer.

Despite the potential to feel lumps more easily, the lack of awareness of physical symptoms (by patients and doctors) can result in up to 2 years in delay between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis. Men tend to have limited knowledge of this disease and the accompanying warning signs such as lumps. This often leads to a delay in seeking help and ultimately results in later diagnosis.5,6

Public awareness may also play a role in the delay. For example, awareness of breast cancer in women may be higher because of widespread women’s advocacy, education, screening programs, and breast cancer-related health campaigns—initiatives that don’t exist for male breast cancer.5

For Many Men, Male Breast Cancer Carries A Stigma

From the word breast to the symbolic breast cancer pink, breast cancer is often seen as a female disease. Because of this, some men may feel embarrassed, or alone when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. It can also affect how men feel about their masculinity, body image, attractiveness and sexuality.

Men might also put off seeing a doctor because they may be embarrassed about changes in their breast, delaying diagnosis and treatment.5

Risk Factors for Male Breast Cancer

Risk factors for male breast cancer include: 4,7,8

  • Getting older.
  • Having a strong family history of female or male breast cancer on either side of the family.
  • Having a history of BRCA2 breast cancer in first-degree relatives (male or female).
  • Having several relatives with colon cancer, prostate cancer or ovarian cancer.
  • Previous treatment with radiotherapy – particularly around the chest area.
  • Having a disease that raises oestrogen levels in the body (cirrhosis of the liver or a genetic disorder called Klinefelter syndrome).
  • Certain testicular diseases.
  • Being overweight.

Symptoms to Watch for

Symptoms of male breast cancer include:4,7

  • A lump in the breast (aka chest) or underarm area. The lump is usually painless but may be tender.
  • Fluid discharge from the nipple.
  • A change in the skin colour, shape or appearance of the breast, nipple or pectoral muscle.
  • Dimpling or puckering of the breast skin.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the underarm area.
  • Pain in the breast area.


These symptoms are not always due to breast cancer, but it is important to see your doctor if you notice them. You should also see your doctor if you develop any new or unusual changes in your breast. If the changes are caused by breast cancer, early diagnosis improves the chances of the cancer being treated successfully.7

Always talk to your doctor if you have any questions about breast cancer or your risk of developing breast cancer.

For more support or information on breast cancer in men:

  1. Cancer data in Australia, Data - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Accessed September 2023.
  2. Breast Cancer in New Zealand. Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand. Accessed September 2023.
  3. Breast Cancer in Men. Breast Cancer Network Australia. Accessed September 2023.
  4. Breast Cancer in Men. Cancer council. Accessed September 2023.
  5. da Silva TL. Male breast cancer: medical and psychological management in comparison to female breast cancer. A review. Cancer Treat Commun. 2016;7:23-34.
  6. Gao et al. Male Breast Cancer in the Age of Genetic Testing: An Opportunity for Early Detection, Tailored Therapy, and Surveillance. Radiographics. 2018 Sep-Oct; 38(5): 1289–1311.
  7. Male Breast Cancer. National Breast Cancer Foundation. Accessed September 2023.
  8. What are the risk factors for Breast Cancer? Cancer Australia. Accessed September 2023.
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