Male Breast Pain
What is male breast pain?
Breast pain is usually associated with women, but men and boys can also develop pain in either or both breasts. Most often, breast pain in men is caused by a condition called gynecomastia, or enlarged male breast tissue. This could also be the result of something as simple as a muscle pull.
Breast cancer, although possible, is rarely the cause. Breast cancer can occur in men. According to the American Cancer Society, of a predicted estimated 284,200 new breast cancer diagnoses in 2021, 2,650 will be among men. But it rarely causes pain as a symptom.
Male breast pain may not be the result of something serious, but it can have a significant impact on how someone gets through the day and night. So if the pain continues or returns, it should be evaluated by a doctor.
Seek immediate medical treatment (call 911) if male breast pain occurs with serious or life-threatening symptoms including:
- Pain or discomfort elsewhere in the arms, neck, jaw or abdomen
What other symptoms might occur with male breast pain?
Men and boys may experience only pain in the breast area, but there may also be other symptoms, depending on the cause. For example, if a man or boy has gynecomastia, he will also notice that the breast tissue is enlarged or swollen.
Other symptoms that may accompany male breast pain include:
- Changes in the skin, including puckering or dimpling
- Lump in the breast
- Lump in a testicle. (Tumors in the testicle can cause hormone imbalances that cause breast pain.)
- Pain spreading to the shoulder
In addition to finding any lumps in the breast area or in a testicle, if you experience any discharge from the nipple or changes in the skin, this could be a sign of cancer. See your doctor as soon as possible for a diagnosis, so you can start prompt treatment if needed.
What causes male breast pain?
Male breast pain can have a few causes. The most common is gynecomastia, which is breast enlargement due to hormone imbalance. Males naturally have a small amount of estrogen, the so-called female hormone, in their system. This is normal. But sometimes a man may have a decrease in the male hormone, testosterone, or he may have elevated levels of estrogen. This causes a hormone imbalance that can result in breast growth. Some medications can also cause gynecomastia, as can obesity, illicit drugs, alcohol, and some medical conditions.
Gynecomastia can occur at different times in a man’s life: as an infant, during puberty, and after age 50.
Other causes of male breast pain
Male breast pain may also be caused by:
- Jogger’s nipple, when the nipple rubs against clothing, particularly in hot, humid weather
- Muscle strain
Rarer causes of male breast pain include:
- Breast cancer
- Breast fat necrosis
- Fibroadenoma (a noncancerous lump of tissue)
- Testicular cancer
How is male breast pain treated?
Male breast pain treatment depends on the cause. For example, if the pain is due to gynecomastia, your doctor must determine why you have this condition. Some possible treatments include:
- Replacing medications that may be causing the breast enlargement
- Medications such as tamoxifen
- Treating the condition that may be causing tissue enlargement, such as hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, or nutrition issues
- Removing the breast tissue (mastectomy)
- Treating the condition that may be causing the painful lump, such as testicular cancer or breast cancer
Home remedies for male breast pain
If the breast pain is the result of jogger’s nipple, protecting the nipples while running or exercising will keep them from getting raw and painful. They can be protected with round adhesive bandages or with a coating of petroleum jelly.
For breast pain caused by muscle strain, stop the activity that caused the injury and allow the muscles to rest. When resuming the activity, start slowly and allow your muscles to rebuild strength.
What are the potential complications male breast pain?
Men and boys who experience breast pain, particularly if they have enlarged breasts, may feel embarrassed about it and may avoid speaking with a doctor. Those with gynecomastia may avoid participating in sports, activities or outings to the pool or beach, particularly if they are in puberty. This can have an effect on their mental health due to social isolation or self-consciousness about their condition.
If male breast pain is due to a serious underlying condition, such as breast cancer or testicular cancer, delaying treatment can result in the cancer progressing, making it more difficult to treat effectively.