Men Can Have Breast Reconstruction

Did you know that cisgender men can get breast cancer—and have breast reconstruction? Many people assigned male at birth do not know that they have any risk of developing breast cancer at all. Those who do develop it may not realize that breast reconstruction is available and applicable to their situation. Read on for a few key facts, warning signs, and considerations when it comes to male breast cancer and reconstruction.

Male breast cancer is rare but real.

Male breast cancer accounts for less than one-percent of breast cancer in the United States, but that does not mean that it does not happen. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing breast cancer as a man is about one in seven-hundred-and-twenty-six*. According to the same data set, treatment outcomes are similar among men and women and vary similar amounts by race and other socioeconomic strata.

Many men do not know the signs of breast cancer, which leads to late-stage diagnosis.

Male breast cancer is often diagnosed at a later stage than female breast cancer. This disparity comes down to lack of awareness. Not only are many men unaware that they face any risk, they are not aware of the signs of breast cancer as a result. Signs include a lump or lumps in the chest or axillary area (under the armpit). Nipple inversion is a common and important sign of male breast cancer. Any unusual changes to a nipple’s appearance warrants a prompt trip to the doctor.

Treatment typically removes the entire pectoralis muscle.

Unlike breast cancer among those assigned female at birth, male breast cancer is not concentrated in glandular tissue. Given the limited tissue in the chest area of most men, standard treatment involves removing the entire pectoralis muscle. This results in a significant concavity on the affected side. This noticeable difference in chest contour, which is often evident even with clothing on, can contribute to reduced self esteem and other meaningful mental health issues.

Male breast reconstruction exists, and it can be vital to long-term mental health.

While there is significant stigma surrounding male breast reconstruction, it is important for patients to know that there are options to restore their chest contour. LD and DIEP flaps are common solutions for patients who have had their pectoralis removed. Those who do opt for reconstruction report improved confidence and overall emotional wellbeing. Reconstruction is an intensely personal decision: patients should do what they feel is best for their emotional and physical health.

*N.B. For the purposes of this blog post, the terms “men” and “male” refer to those assigned male at birth (cisgender men) in order to remain consistent with source data. The average breast cancer risk among individuals assigned female at birth (including trans and non-binary folks) is one in eight. Top surgery dramatically reduces this risk. Thank you for your patience as we work to use inclusive language without convoluting statistics in an ecosystem that is currently limited to largely binary research and data sources!