Breast pain in men can have a variety of causes. Male breast pain can occur due to muscle strain, a cyst, or gynecomastia. Some causes might require treatment, but many are harmless.

Most causes of breast pain in males are due to problems in breast tissue. These problems are usually treatable, and some can go away on their own.

This article discusses some of the causes of breast pain in males and how to treat them.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The pectoralis major and minor are the two main muscles that make up the chest. Performing weighted chest exercises or putting excess pressure on the muscles can cause a strain.

A period of rest can treat muscle strain. If resting does not help, a doctor may suggest physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medications. If there is a severe tear, a person may need surgery to repair it.

Learn more about pulled chest muscles.

All males have a small amount of breast tissue. Gynecomastia is a condition that causes the tissue to grow, resulting in more breast tissue than males typically have. It is not harmful in itself, but it can sometimes cause pain.

Most cases of gynecomastia are idiopathic, meaning there is no identifiable cause. However, it can occur due to:

  • hormone imbalances, where estrogen increases and testosterone decreases
  • use of anabolic steroids
  • obesity

In some cases, it can also be a symptom of other underlying conditions, such as liver disease or kidney failure.

Treatment for this condition can depend on the cause. For example, if a medication or other conditions is causing breast tissue growth, addressing this may lead to a reduction in its growth. Some people choose to undergo surgery to remove the tissue.

Learn more about breast tissue in males.

Some people experience skin irritation from running. The nipple can start to chafe against a top or vest. The chafing can cause the nipple to become sore.

People can treat jogger’s nipple by cleaning the area with water and mild soap. When the nipple is completely dry, give it time to heal. This may involve taking a small break from running, or covering the nipples with a bandage.

A cyst is a lump under the skin that contains fluid or air. They are usually benign, but sometimes they can become sore. A cyst in the breast is one possible cause of pain in the area.

According to Breast Cancer Now, breast cysts are very rare in males. Most do not require any treatment. If they do, a doctor can insert a needle to remove the fluid inside. This is known as aspiration.

Fat necrosis occurs where fat tissue becomes damaged. Surgery on the breasts or a biopsy can sometimes cause this damage. Breast fat necrosis can produce a lump, but it is not cancerous.

According to the nonprofit Breast Cancer Now, breast fat necrosis will usually go away on its own over time. If it does not, a person should speak with a doctor.

Another noncancerous lump that can form on the breasts is a fibroadenoma. These are the most common type of breast tumor, but they are rare in males.

The cause of a fibroadenoma is unclear, but most do not increase the risk of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), most doctors recommend removing a fibroadenoma via surgery to be sure.

Although it is rarer than breast cancer in females, breast cancer can occur in males. It causes tumors to grow in the breast or armpit area, which may result in pain or soreness.

Other symptoms may include:

  • changes in the shape or size of breast tissue
  • nipple discharge, which may contain blood
  • other nipple changes such as a rash, discoloration, or inversion
  • open sores or ulcers on the chest

Treatments for breast cancer vary depending on the type and severity. In some cases, doctors will use surgery to remove the tumor. They could also use chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill cancerous cells. Hormone therapy is another possible treatment, if the tumor has hormone receptors.

Men’s health resources

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In diagnosing breast pain, a doctor will first ask questions about symptoms and lifestyle. For example, they may ask about exercise habits.

The doctor may perform a physical exam to assess the breast tissue. They will first want to rule out severe conditions, such as breast cancer.

Doctors look for signs of cancer such as a lump or swelling on the breast or armpit. If the doctor suspects breast cancer, it will require further testing, such as a mammogram, ultrasound scan, or biopsy.

Other tests may also help with making a diagnosis. For example, an ultrasound or CT scan might help to diagnose a cyst or gynecomastia.

It is not always possible to prevent the causes of breast pain. For example, it is not always clear what causes cysts or fibroadenomas.

However, some causes, such as muscle strain, are preventable. Some prevention tips include:

  • gradually increasing the resistance of chest exercises to avoid injury
  • maintaining proper form while doing exercises
  • including enough rest time between chest workouts
  • using lubrication or protective pads for the nipple before running
  • avoiding anabolic steroids or other drugs that affect hormones, where possible

Some causes of breast pain do not require a doctor. For example, muscle strain can go away on its own.

But it is worth seeing a doctor for any lumps or swelling that could be cancerous. The ACS list the following signs of breast cancer:

  • swelling in some or all of a breast
  • breast or nipple pain
  • skin changes, such as dumpling or red and flaky areas
  • unusual discharge from the nipples
  • swollen lymph nodes

There are many possible causes of breast pain. Most causes are not serious, and some can go away on their own.

In rare cases, the pain could be a result of breast cancer or another serious condition. It is essential to speak with a doctor as soon as possible if the pain occurs with a lump, visible changes to the nipples or skin, or swelling.