Surgery is the main treatment for breast cancer. Most men only have a small amount of breast tissue, so the most common operation involves taking away all the breast tissue and the nipple. This is called a mastectomy. You will usually have some or all the lymph nodes removed from the armpit during this operation.
Sometimes, the surgeon may be able to remove only the area of the cancer with some surrounding healthy tissue. This operation is called a wide local excision. For some men it may mean they keep their nipple. You might hear it called a lumpectomy or breast-conserving surgery.
After this operation, the pathologist looks at the tissue that has been removed to see if there is an area of normal cells around the cancer. This is called clear margin. If there are still cancer cells at the edge of the removed breast tissue, you will need to have a mastectomy.
Your surgeon will talk to you about the type of operation that is recommended for you. They can also answer any questions you may have.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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