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Breast problems in men

Learn more about breast problems in men: introduction

There are many reasons breasts can be painful. Breast pain by itself is unlikely to be a symptom of cancer.

Most causes of male breast pain are not serious. A few of the more common causes of male breast pain include:

  • Breast injury
    An injury to the breast can happen from sports, automobile accidents, or work-related activities. When these injuries cause the death of fatty tissue in the breast (called breast fat necrosis), the breast can develop dimpling or a firm lump. This can be frightening as the symptoms of breast fat necrosis often seem similar  to those of breast cancer.
  • Runner's nipple
    Sometimes men develop irritated or bloody nipples from jogging. Friction over the nipples can result in pain and bleeding.
  • Mastitis
    An infection of breast tissue called mastitis can occur in men as well as women.
  • Breast cyst
    A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac in the breast. It happens to  both men and women. 
  • Fibroadenoma
    While uncommon in men, a fibroadenoma is a benign breast tumor composed of glandular and fibrous breast tissue.
  • Gynecomastia
    Gynecomastia is swelling of the breast tissue in boys or men, caused by an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone. Gynecomastia can happen  both breasts, sometimes unevenly. Newborns, boys going through puberty and older men may develop gynecomastia as a result of normal changes in hormone levels, though other causes also exist. Generally, gynecomastia isn't a serious problem, but it can be tough to cope with the condition. Men and boys with gynecomastia sometimes have pain in their breasts and may feel embarrassed. Gynecomastia may go away on its own. If it persists, medication or surgery may help.

How to ease the pain yourself

You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen, or rub painkilling gel on your breasts.

There's little evidence that vitamin E tablets or evening primrose oil help with breast pain.

Sometimes breast pain is caused by:

  • injuries or sprains to the neck, shoulder or back – these can also be felt as breast pain
  • medicines such as some antidepressants – check the side effects in the packet's information leaflet
  • conditions like a breast abscess – these can cause breast pain along with other symptoms

See a GP about breast pain if:

  • it's not improving or painkillers are not helping
  • you have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery 
  • any part of your breast is red, hot or swollen
  • there's a history of breast cancer in your family (male or female)

Get advice from 111 now if:

  • there's a hard lump in your breast that does not move around
  • you get nipple discharge, which may be streaked with blood
  • 1 or both breasts change shape
  • the skin on your breast is dimpled (like orange peel)
  • you have a rash on or around the nipple, or the nipple has sunk into the breast

These can be signs of something more serious.

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Other ways to get help

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.