Treatment overview

Treatments for men with breast cancer are similar to those used for breast cancer in women. The treatment you have will depend on the stage of breast cancer that you have.

Your doctor and specialist nurse will explain the treatments they think are best for your situation.

Early and locally advanced breast cancer

For most men, the main treatment for early breast cancer is surgery to remove it. As most men have only a small amount of breast tissue, the operation usually involves taking away all of the breast tissue and the nipple on the affected side. Rarely, only the lump and some surrounding tissue is removed.

Men who have larger cancers may have chemotherapy or hormonal therapy before surgery to shrink the tumour. This is known as neo-adjuvant therapy.

Many men will then have other treatments after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back (recurring). These treatments may include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or targeted therapy with trastuzumab (Herceptin®).

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.

If the cancer is large, has spread to the lymph nodes or is high grade, you may be given chemotherapy after your operation. Men who have triple-negative breast cancer are also usually treated with chemotherapy.

If the cancer is ER-positive, you’ll be given hormonal treatment for a number of years. This will start after chemotherapy if you are having it.

If you have HER2-positive breast cancer, you may have treatment with trastuzumab (Herceptin®) and chemotherapy.

Secondary breast cancer

If the cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes in the armpit to another part of the body, it is called secondary breast cancer. The most common places for breast cancer to spread to are the bone, liver, lungs or occasionally the brain.

Treatment for secondary breast cancer is different for each person. It will depend on the type of breast cancer and where it has spread to. The main treatments are hormonal therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy, although surgery and radiotherapy may be helpful in some situations.

The aim of treatment for secondary breast cancer is usually to help control it, reduce the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Before you have any treatment, your cancer specialist and breast care nurse will talk it over with you and answer your questions.

Back to Understanding your diagnosis

Stages and grading

Knowing the grade and type of the breast cancer helps your doctors plan the best treatment for you.