Surgery for breast cancer in men

There are different types of surgery for breast cancer in men.


Surgery is the main treatment for breast cancer. Men have a small amount of breast tissue behind the nipples. So your surgeon will usually recommend removing all the breast tissue and the nipple. This is called a mastectomy.

Wide local excision (breast-conserving surgery)

Some men may be able to have breast-conserving surgery. This aims to remove the cancer safely and keep the nipple. This operation is also called a wide local excision (WLE) or lumpectomy.

After breast-conserving surgery, the tissue that has been removed is looked at under a microscope by a pathologist. They check the area around the cancer. This is called the margin. If there are cancer cells close to the edge of the margin, you will need a mastectomy.

If you have breast-conserving surgery, you will have radiotherapy afterwards. This is to reduce the risk of cancer coming back in the same area.

Surgery for breast cancer usually includes removing some or all the lymph nodes in your armpit. This is to check them for cancer cells.

Before the operation, you may have chemotherapy, targeted therapy or hormonal therapy. This is called neo-adjuvant treatment. It can help to shrink the cancer before surgery.

If you have a breast cancer gene, you may have neo-adjuvant treatment and a mastectomy. This is because people with a breast cancer gene have a higher risk of breast cancer coming back.

About our information

  • 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 Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Professor Mike Dixon, Professor of Surgery and Consultant Breast Surgeon.

    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.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
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We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 October 2023
Next review: 01 October 2026
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.