Breast Masses in Men

Breast cancer is not limited to women; men also have breast tissue. About 1 percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. While this is a small number, it is still a serious issue that requires medical attention.

Dealing with breast issues can be a source of discomfort and embarrassment for most men, and the need for a breast exam is often overlooked. Evaluation of the breast is the same for men and women, and the prognosis is similar. At the Breast Clinic at Virginia Mason, in Seattle, we are experienced at dealing with male breast symptoms and the issues that come along with them.

Male Breast Enlargement

Gynecomastia means enlargement of the male breast and is the most common cause of a breast mass in a man. Up to two-thirds of men will have gynecomastia in their lives. It is described as a tender mass underneath the nipple. Any breast mass in a man needs to be evaluated. However, a mass that is not centrally located behind the nipple, or that also has skin changes or nipple discharge, can be suspicious for cancer.

Possible causes of gynecomastia (enlargement of the male breast) include:

  • An imbalance of hormones affecting the breast tissue
  • Weight gain, which sometimes increases estrogen in the blood
  • Medical conditions that change hormone levels
  • Certain medications

Evaluation can include:

  • A thorough history review and clinical breast exam
  • Blood tests
  • Mammogram and/or breast ultrasound  
  • Needle biopsy  
  • Referral to a specialist if an underlying cause is found


Follow-up imaging and an exam may be necessary depending on the evaluation of the mass. If the evaluation shows breast cancer, you will be referred to Virginia Mason's experienced, multidisciplinary breast cancer team — part of the Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute at Virginia Mason.

Treatment for Breast Masses in Men

When there is no definite cause of gynecomastia, it will often resolve on its own in a few months or even longer.

In the meantime:

  • Try to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Minimize the use of alcohol.
  • Seek care promptly if you notice a lump. Early detection increases the chance of successful treatment

Questions About Breast Masses in Men?

If you have questions about this topic, or would like more information, please talk with your health-care provider.

Virginia Mason's Breast Clinic, with locations in Seattle and Federal Way, is easily reached toll-free at (877) 433-9813. We make it a priority to answer your call promptly and to schedule you for the most appropriate exam.