Breast cancer in men
Dr. Mark Runfola, MD, FACS, is a surgical oncologist at Banner Desert Medical Center. For more information on this topic, please consult with your physician or call the Banner Desert Cancer Center at (480) 412-HOPE (4673).
Question: My uncle was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and I didn’t know men could be affected. How common is male breast cancer, and how is it typically diagnosed and treated?
Answer: Both men and women have breast tissue, so breast cancer can affect either gender, but only about 1 percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. Like women, men often discover a lump or swelling in the breast area. Unfortunately, there is less awareness about male breast cancer, so the disease is often diagnosed at a later stage. Men who are over 65, have a family history of breast cancer in both parents, have been exposed to estrogen or radiation, or have been diagnosed with liver disease or testicular cancer have an increased risk for breast cancer.
In general, treatment options for men and women are similar, though a less-invasive lumpectomy may not be available because men have less breast tissue. An operation called a modified radical mastectomy, which preserves the breast muscle but removes surrounding breast tissue and lymph nodes, is often recommended. Following surgery, the patient may undergo radiation to eliminate any remaining cancer.
To reduce the possibility of the cancer spreading, chemotherapy may also be prescribed. If the cancer has already spread to other areas of the body, additional treatments or procedures may be necessary.
The most important thing men can do to reduce breast cancer risk is to regularly examine breast tissue, just like women do. Recognizing that the disease is not exclusive to women, and learning proper screening techniques can dramatically improve a man’s chances for a successful outcome if breast cancer strikes.