Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer

Symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to those of female breast cancer. This includes lumps on or around the breast, nipple discharge, and changes to the skin.

A lump or swelling under the arm or near the collarbone can also signify breast cancer.

This article discusses frequent and rare symptoms of male breast cancer, as well as complications and when to see a healthcare provider.

Patient explaining lump to nurse with clipboard

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Frequent Symptoms

Symptoms of breast cancer are similar in men and women, but men are usually diagnosed with more advanced disease. One reason may be that men are less aware of the symptoms and tend to delay seeing a healthcare provider.

Breast Lump

The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a lump or swelling just under the nipple and areola. Less often, the lump is located in the upper outer quadrant of the breast. Men have less breast tissue than women, so it may be easier to discover a lump.

Not all cancerous breast lumps are the same, but some common features are:

  • It's hard or bumpy.
  • The edges are irregular.
  • When you push with your fingers, it doesn't move around within the breast.
  • It's typically painless but not always.
  • It's changing or getting bigger.

Nipple Changes

In men, symptoms involving the nipple tend to occur earlier in the course of the disease than in women. These signs and symptoms can include:

  • A nipple that feels hard or looks swollen
  • Retraction (the nipple is pulling, turning inwards, or flattening)
  • Discharge from the nipple, which may be clear or tinged with blood
  • Redness, rash, or scaling around the nipple that doesn't go away
  • Tenderness, sensitivity, pain

Skin Changes

Changes to the skin on or near the breasts may include:

  • General irritation, redness, a rash that doesn't clear up
  • Variations in skin color
  • Puckering, pitting, or dimpling resembling the appearance of an orange peel
  • One or more open sores (ulcerations)

General Breast Changes

Breast cancer can also affect the size and shape of the breast area so that it appears larger, misshapen, or sunken.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone. Sometimes, you'll notice swollen lymph nodes before a breast tumor is large enough to be felt.

Signs of lymph node involvement include one or more lumps, general swelling, and tenderness.

Rare Symptoms

Inflammatory breast cancer is very rare in men. Symptoms are different from other types of breast cancer and could easily be mistaken for an infection. Rather than a lump, inflammatory breast cancer is likely to present with symptoms such as:

  • Swelling
  • Being warm to the touch
  • Redness or bruised appearance
  • Pitting of the skin
  • A sense of heaviness, aching, burning, tenderness
  • Nipple changes
  • Enlarged breast size
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone


There are serious complications that may affect males with breast cancer.


Men have a higher risk of seroma after breast cancer surgery than women. Seroma is a buildup of fluid under the skin. While this usually clears up within a few weeks, it may increase the risk of developing lymphedema, painful swelling that can become chronic.

Advanced Cancer

Men account for less than 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses. But more than 40% of men have reached stages 3 or 4 by the time they get diagnosed. Men have less breast tissue than women, so the cancer is more likely to spread to the chest wall early on. This may play a role in the higher mortality rate for breast cancer in men than women.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms

Metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread to other regions of the body) can put pressure on organs, blood vessels, and nerves. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue that doesn't improve with rest
  • Changes to appetite, eating problems
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Fever
  • Pain, swelling, or lumps
  • Cough, hoarseness, or shortness of breath

Research indicates that these factors are related to a poorer prognosis:

  • Age over 65
  • Having two or more comorbidities (other co-occurring health conditions)
  • Not having surgery on the tumor
  • No treatment with tamoxifen, a type of hormone therapy

Black Men With Breast Cancer

The incidence rate of breast cancer is higher among Black men than White men. Male breast cancer hasn't been as well-studied as female breast cancer.

But some research suggests that when compared to White men, Black men are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and have a more advanced disease at diagnosis.

Overall survival is also lower in Black men compared to White, Hispanic, and Asian men.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Symptoms of breast cancer can mimic those of other conditions, such as gynecomastia or lipomas. Most breast lumps are benign, not cancerous. However, benign cysts, common in females, are not common in males.

Male breast cancer is rare, with an estimated 2,710 new cases in the United States in 2022. However, getting the proper treatment depends on getting the right diagnosis in a timely fashion. And breast cancer is easier to treat before it spreads. Here are some signs that you should consult with a healthcare provider:

  • You have a breast lump.
  • There are changes to your nipple, areola, or skin.
  • Your breasts look uneven, misshapen, or swollen.
  • You have swollen lymph nodes under your arm or near your collarbone.
  • You have a personal history of cancer.
  • You have a family history of breast cancer.


Male breast cancer is rare, but men are more likely to get diagnosed with advanced disease. This may be due, at least in part, to a lack of awareness. The most common symptom is a lump on the chest, usually near the nipple. Men can also have discharge from the nipple, skin puckering, a persistent rash, and swelling under the armpit or near the collarbone. These symptoms don't mean you have breast cancer. However, it is important to get evaluated by a healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Even though it's not common, men do get breast cancer. It's a good idea to get familiar with your breast and chest area, so you know what's normal and can recognize changes early on. If you're concerned about your risk of developing breast cancer, talk to your provider about screening options, genetic testing, and whether there are ways to lower your risk. If you get a breast cancer diagnosis, early treatment offers the best chance for a good outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the risk factors for male breast cancer?

    A family history of breast cancer or mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can increase a man's risk of developing breast cancer. Other risk factors include a history of radiation treatment or hormone therapy, Klinefelter's syndrome, conditions that affect the testicles, liver disease, and overweight and obesity.

  • How is male breast cancer diagnosed?

    Diagnosing breast cancer is the same for men and women. This may start with imaging tests, such as mammography and ultrasound. Mammography results may be more accurate for men than women since men's breast tissue isn't as dense. The diagnosis can be eliminated or confirmed through biopsy.

  • What's the treatment for male breast cancer?

    Breast cancer treatment for men is similar to that for women. This may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone treatment, and targeted therapies. Clinical trials involving men are lacking due to the rarity of male breast cancer.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ann Pietrangelo
Ann Pietrangelo is a freelance writer, health reporter, and author of two books about her personal health experiences.