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The treatment for breast cancer in men largely depends on how far the cancer has spread. Possible treatments include surgery, radiotherapy and medication.
This page has information about:
You'll be cared for by a team of specialists who will help you make decisions about your treatment.
Your recommended treatment plan will depend on how far the cancer has spread, but the final decision about going ahead with treatment is yours.
You may find it useful to write a list of questions you'd like to ask your team. For example, you could ask about the advantages and disadvantages of particular treatments.
If the cancer hasn't spread very far beyond your breast, a cure may be possible. This will usually involve surgery, possibly followed by radiotherapy or a course of medication.
If the cancer has spread into other parts of your body, a complete cure may not be possible. But treatment can help relieve symptoms and slow down the spread of the cancer.
An operation called a mastectomy is the main treatment for breast cancer.
This involves removing all the breast tissue from the affected breast as well as the nipple, and possibly also the glands in your armpit and some of the muscle under your breast.
The operation is carried out under general anaesthetic (where you're asleep). You'll probably need to stay in hospital for a day or two.
It can take several months to fully recover. The Royal College of Surgeons of England has a leaflet for people recovering from a mastectomy with detailed information and advice.
After surgery, there'll be a straight scar across your chest where your nipple used to be and possibly a dent where the breast tissue was removed.
The scar will be raised and red at first, but it should flatten and fade with time. The area will also be bruised and swollen for the first few weeks.
It may be possible to have further surgery at some point to improve the appearance of your breast and create a replacement nipple. Other options include tattooing a new nipple on to your chest.
Talk to your care team about how your chest will look after surgery and what your options are for improving its appearance if necessary.
Side effects and risks of a mastectomy include:
Before having surgery, talk to your surgeon and breast care nurse about the possible risks.
Radiotherapy is a treatment where radiation is used to kill cancer cells. In breast cancer in men, it may be used to:
It involves several treatment sessions where a machine is used to carefully aim beams of radiation at the cancer. Each session usually only lasts for 10 to 15 minutes and you can go home afterwards.
A typical course of treatment involves two to five sessions a week over three to six weeks, although palliative radiotherapy may involve fewer sessions.
Radiotherapy isn't painful, although you'll probably get some side effects. Most of these should pass once treatment stops.
Common side effects of radiotherapy include:
Read more about the side effects of radiotherapy.
Hormone therapy is a treatment that involves taking medication to block the effects of a hormone called oestrogen.
Around 9 in 10 breast cancers in men are "oestrogen receptor positive", which means the cancer cells need oestrogen to grow.
Hormone therapy can be used to:
The most commonly used hormone medicine is tamoxifen. This is taken as a tablet or liquid every day, usually for five years.
Tamoxifen can cause some unpleasant side effects, such as:
Tell your care team if you have any troublesome side effects. Other hormone medicines, such as a type called aromatase inhibitors, are available if needed.
In breast cancer in men, chemotherapy may be used to:
It involves several treatment sessions where medicine is given directly into a vein. Each session usually lasts a few hours and you can go home afterwards.
A typical course of treatment involves six sessions, with a break of a few weeks between each one to allow your body to recover.
Chemotherapy can cause a range of unpleasant side effects, although most of these should pass once treatment stops.
Side effects of chemotherapy can include:
Read more about the side effects of chemotherapy.
Trastuzumab (brand name Herceptin) is a medicine that blocks the effect of a substance called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).
In some breast cancers in men, HER2 contributes to the growth of the cancer cells.
Trastuzumab is usually used after radiotherapy or chemotherapy to help stop the cancer coming back.
It's given as a liquid directly into a vein or as an injection under the skin. You come into hospital for treatment and go home shortly afterwards.
A typical course of treatment involves a treatment session every three weeks for a year.
Trastuzumab can cause some unpleasant side effects, such as:
Read more about the side effects of trastuzumab.