Both men and women have mammary glands and breast tissue in their bodies since birth. When boys attain puberty, the development of breast tissue and mammary glands stops, as they do not function in men. However, men still can experience breast pain due to various conditions that affect the breast tissue.
One of the rare causes of breast pain in men is breast cancer.(1, 2) Other causes for breast pain in men consist of injury or noncancerous conditions of the breast tissue. Sometimes breast pain can be mistaken for pain from tendons and muscles of the chest or related to some heart problem.
Top 6 Causes Of Breast Pain In Men With Diagnosis And Treatment
Some of the 6 common causes of breast pain in men along with their diagnosis and treatment are:
1. Breast Cancer as a cause of Breast Pain in Men
In male breast cancer, the initial symptoms consist of a lump or changes in the skin; however not pain. After some days, the patient can feel breast pain along with skin dimpling or puckering. If breast cancer is the cause of breast pain in men, then there will be nipple discharge and also redness. Breast cancer; however, occurs rarely in men.(1, 2)
Diagnosis of Breast Cancer in Men: A mammogram is done to diagnose if the pain or the lump in the breast is cancerous or not. Sometimes, MRI or ultrasound may also be done. A biopsy is mandatory to confirm any sort of cancer.
Treatment of Breast Cancer in Men (3): Breast cancer treatment in men comprises of the following:
Surgery is done to remove the tumor or in some cases the breast itself, along with the lymph nodes too.
Chemotherapy is done where chemicals are given intravenously to kill the cancer cells and to prevent the cancer from metastasizing.
Hormone therapy is done to disrupt the hormones, which assist the multiplication of the cancer cells.
Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy x-rays to kill the cancer cells.
Targeted therapy comprises of drugs or specific substances that specially target and kill the cancer cells, while not disrupting the healthy cells.
2. Breast Fat Necrosis
Just like any other tissue, the breast tissue is also prone to damage, such as from any injury or car accident. When the damage to the breast tissue is acute, then it results in the death of the tissue, which is known as necrosis. Necrosis of the fatty breast tissues results in development of a single or many lumps within the breast. The skin surrounding the lump can also look bruised, red and also dimpled. However, necrosis of the breast fat necrosis occurs rarely in men.(4)
Diagnosis of Breast Fat Necrosis (4): First physical exam is done after which ultrasound is also done to take a look at the breast tissue. Ultrasound is noninvasive and painless and uses sound waves to produce images of the breast tissue on a screen. Other than this, core biopsy or fine needle aspiration of the breast lump can be done to diagnose if it’s necrosis or something malignant.
Treatment of Breast Fat Necrosis (4): Breast fat necrosis doesn’t really need any treatment, as the lump of dead tissue cells often dissolve on its own overtime. However, if there is pain then surgery may need to be done to excise the dead breast tissue.
3. Yes! Muscle Strain Also Causes Breast Pain in Men
Men who are actively involved in sports; especially contact sports, exercises or heavy lifting, are at increased risk for injuring pectoralis minor or pectoralis major, which are the two primary chest muscles.(5) The tendons, which join these muscles to the bones can also get torn or strained resulting in breast pain in men. Other than breast pain, additional symptoms of muscle strain in men are: weakness; arm pain; chest pain; in some cases, deformation of the affected arm and chest area.
Diagnosis of Muscle Strain: Physical exam helps in diagnosing the muscle damage by asking the patient to move the affected arm into certain positions. This will also help in finding out the degree and location of the muscle injury. Other diagnostic tests done include: MRI scan or ultrasound scan to more accurately pinpoint the damage to the muscle.
Treatment for Muscle Strain: Surgery is needed if there has been a tear to the tendon or the muscle to repair it. Post-surgery recovery takes some time and it will be few months before the patient can get back to lifting weights or sports arena.(5)
If there has been no actual tear to the tendon or the muscles, then treatment consists of rest for a few days followed by heat application and gradually moving on to stretching exercises; so that the muscle gets healed effectively.
4. Breast Cyst Resulting in Breast Pain in Men (6)
Cysts in breasts are more common in women than men.(6) Symptoms of breast cysts include breast pain and presence of a lump which can or cannot be felt externally.
Diagnosis of Breast Cyst in Men: Diagnosis to find out the size and site of the cyst include: physical exam; mammogram; CT scan and a biopsy will help in finding out the nature of the cyst in more detail.
Treatment for Breast Cyst in Men: If the breast cyst in men is benign, then no treatment is needed other than close monitoring twice a year to check the growth. If the cyst is thought to cause complications, then surgery is needed to remove it from the breast.
5. Gynecomastia Also Causes Breast Pain in Men (7, 8)
When there is imbalance or disruption in the levels of the testosterone and estrogen hormones, then it causes gynecomastia. This is a condition where the breast tissue overgrows in young boys and adult males. This not only makes the men feel self-conscious, but also causes breast pain.
Diagnosis of Gynecomastia: Physical examination is done of the breast tissue, abdomen and the genitals. Other diagnostic tools for gynecomastia consist of: Blood test, mammogram; MRI scan and even a biopsy of the breast tissue. Testicular ultrasound can also be done to exclude testicular cancer, as gynecomastia is the initial sign of this disease.
Treatment of Gynecomastia: Many young boys do not need treatment as they outgrow gynecomastia. Treatment for Gynecomastia comprises of liposuction to remove the excessive fatty tissue, which helps improve the appearance of the chest. A mastectomy can also be done to remove the breast tissue by using small incisions.
6. Fibroadenoma Also Causes Breast Pain in Men (9)
Fibroadenoma is more common in women than men. Fibroadenoma is a benign lump present in the fibroglandular breast tissue and can cause pain in the breast of a man. However, this occurs rarely, as men often don’t have fibroglandular tissue present in their breasts. The lump feels firm and round as if a marble is present in your breast.
Diagnosis of Fibroadenoma in Men: Diagnosing fibroadenoma consists of physical exam, ultrasound and then a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis or to find other causes for the lump.
Treatment for Fibroadenoma in Men: In some cases, fibroadenoma needs no treatment, as it can disappear on its own. Lumpectomy is done, which is a surgical procedure to remove the offensive lump. Small incisions should be used for better and faster healing. Cryoablation is another treatment option for fibroadenoma. This is a minimally invasive procedure where a small wand is inserted into the affected breast where tiny amount of gas gets released to freeze and destroy the fibroadenoma.
Breast Pain in men can occur due to some serious causes and sometimes can be harmless. It is always better to consult your doctor with the symptoms to get early diagnosis and treatment; as there are some conditions for which only early diagnosis can lead to complete treatment or otherwise it can result in complications.
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