Treatment overview for breast cancer in men

For most men, the main treatment for early breast cancer is surgery to remove it. You may also have other treatments to reduce the risk of it coming back.

About treatment for breast cancer in men

Treatments for men with breast cancer are similar to those used to treat breast cancer in women.

Your doctors look at different factors to help decide which treatments are likely to work best for you. These include:

Your cancer doctor and specialist nurse will explain the treatments that they think are best for you. They can help you to make decisions about your treatment.

Early breast cancer

For most men, the main treatment for early breast cancer is surgery to remove it.

Most men only have a small amount of breast tissue. This means the operation usually involves taking away all the breast tissue and the nipple on the affected side. This is known as a simple mastectomy.

Rarely, it may be possible to remove only the cancer and some normal looking tissue around it (a margin). This is called breast-conserving surgery. It is usually only possible if there is enough breast tissue to get a margin.

Breast-conserving surgery is almost always followed by radiotherapy. This helps reduce the risk of the cancer coming back (recurring).

Treating the lymph nodes

Your surgeon may remove some or all the lymph nodes in your armpit. Some men may be offered radiotherapy to the lymph nodes instead of surgery.

Locally advanced breast cancer

If you have locally advanced breast cancer or inflammatory breast cancer you will usually be offered chemotherapy before surgery.

The chemotherapy helps to shrink the tumour. Sometimes targeted therapies are also used. This is known as neo-adjuvant treatment.

Adjuvant treatments

You may be offered other treatments after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. These treatments may include:

Radiotherapy

You may have radiotherapy to the chest wall. This is to get rid of any cancer cells that may have been left behind after surgery. Some men may also have radiotherapy to the lymph nodes in the armpit or the lower part of the neck. 

Chemotherapy

Your cancer doctor may advise you to have chemotherapy if:

Targeted therapy

If you have HER2 positive breast cancer, you may be given a targeted therapy drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin®) and chemotherapy. 

Hormonal therapy

If the cancer is oestrogen-receptor positive, you will be given hormonal treatment for a few years. This usually starts after chemotherapy, if you are having it.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our breast cancer in men information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    European Society for Medical Oncology. Primary breast cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of oncology 26 (supplement 5): v8–v30. 2015. 

    Gradishar WJ, et al. Breast cancer in men. UpToDate online. June 2018.

    Morrow M, et al. Chapter 79: malignant tumors of the breast. DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg’s cancer: principals and practice of oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2014.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and management. July 2018.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and treatment. Clinical Guideline 81. February 2009, updated August 2017. 

    Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 134. Treatment of primary breast cancer: a national clinical guideline. September 2013.

     

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist; and Dr Mark Verrill, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.