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Meet the Experts: Q&A About Male Breast Cancer

July 18, 2017

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Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen. In the United States, only about 1 percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. We talked to Moffitt Cancer Center nurse Kathleen Roberto to learn more about this uncommon cancer in men.

1. How many patients a year do you treat here at Moffitt for this disease?

Breast cancer is considered rare in men. About 1,500 men a year are diagnosed with it as opposed to hundreds of thousands of women. At Moffitt, we see about five or six cases per year.

2. What are the differences in breast cancer between females and males?

Biologically it is the same disease. Female and male breasts are structured differently. With male breast cancer, it is usually diagnosed because men don’t have a lot of breast tissue so they feel a lump in their breast if it is present. There is no reason for men to get screening mammograms, even though they absolutely can, but that is the first thing we do if a man feels a lump.  

3. What do surgery options look like for a male with breast cancer?

Surgery options are slightly different because women have the breast conservation option, with procedures like a lumpectomy to only remove the cancerous lump and not the entire breast itself. That is not usually a feasible option with men because of the fact that most times the only possibility is to perform a mastectomy. Men also have their lymph nodes assessed because the axillary lymph nodes are always assessed with breast cancer patients. That tells the doctors how to treat the patient, and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes. A routine procedure would be a mastectomy with a sentinel lymph node biopsy, but if the cancer has spread the lymph nodes it will be removed altogether when the mastectomy is done.

4. How can a male reduce the risk factors of getting breast cancer?

Excess breast tissue can occur in men as they get older, increasing the risk of breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer in men also increases as they get older. The average age of a male breast cancer patient is late 60s, early 70s. Prevention includes keeping your weight down and being aware of any changes with your body. If you are a known genetic carrier, practice a healthy diet, keep your weight down and avoid smoking and alcohol.

5. Why do you think males are less likely to report lumps or chest pains to their doctors?

In general, men don’t go to the doctor as frequently. They aren’t as prone to perform screening and prevention strategies unless they have a motivational partner. They aren’t as in tune with their bodies. There is also a lack of knowledge in the general public about the connection of genetics in the family. Most men do not think they’re at risk.

Meet the Experts is a series of 30-minute informational sessions led by Moffitt staff members. Click here for a full schedule.

If you're interested in receiving breast cancer treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form and we'll help you make an appointment with one of our experienced breast cancer specialists.