Harvard Men's Health Watch

Breast disorders in men

When America's first lady disclosed that she had breast cancer, the story made headlines. That was back in 1974, and until Betty Ford made her courageous announcement, public discussion of the disease was taboo. Mrs. Ford was cured, and the publicity she generated promoted crucial cancer research and helped motivate millions of women to get life-saving tests and treatment.

Because of the frank discussions Mrs. Ford initiated, a celebrity's breast cancer has moved off the front page. But in 2003, when a former U.S. senator made a similar announcement, it was again headline news, this time because the patient was a man, Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts.

Men like Senator John Kerry and General Colin Powell are increasingly forthright about prostate cancer, but most guys are reluctant to own up to "women's problems" like breast disease. But men have breasts, too. The male breast is much smaller than its female counterpart, and it cannot produce milk. Because of this smaller size and simpler structure, breast disease is much less common in men than women. Still, men can develop important breast problems, both benign and malignant. Early detection is the key to a successful outcome, so every man should understand the basic elements of male breast disease.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »