Health Watch -- Treating Male Breast Cancer

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Women don't have an exclusive when it comes to breast cancer.

Although breast cancer is much more common in women than in men, male breast cancer does occur. About 1,300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, and about 400 men will die every year from the disease.

Does that mean men should be screened as carefully as women are for breast cancer? Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say no. Male breast cancer is pretty rare - about 100 times less common than breast cancer in women - so routine screening isn't recommended.

Dr. Phil Evans, director of UT Southwestern's Center for Breast Care, says most men with breast cancer first notice a painless lump. As with women, any suspicious lump should be evaluated by a doctor.

Once a man finds a lump, the process of diagnosing and treating breast cancer in men is very similar to the process for women. Doctors will evaluate the lump with physical examination, mammography and ultrasound. The cancer diagnosis will most likely be made with a needle biopsy, in which cells from the lump are studied.

Treatment for male breast cancer usually involves surgery to remove the tumor and chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

While men don't need monthly self exams or annual mammograms, they should be aware of any changes in their bodies. If you feel an unexpected lump, you should see a doctor to make sure it isn't cancer. Recovery rates are higher for cancer detected in the earliest stages.


April 2004