Male breast cancer remains underdiagnosed and, due to delays in diagnosis, is often also undertreated. The investigation and management of male breast cancer are based on studies on female patients. At present there is a need for further research into male breast cancer. The symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for male breast cancer are all similar to female breast cancer.
It is estimated that more than 90% of male breast cancers are oestrogen receptor-positive, and an even greater percentage are progesterone receptor-positive. Male breast cancer tissue may also be positive for androgen receptors.
- In 2008, the UK incidence was 0.9 per 100,000 population, compared with 123.8 per 100,000 for female breast cancer. It has been estimated that the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 1,014 for men and 1 in 8 for women in the UK.
- Male breast cancer is diagnosed in 1% of cases of male breast enlargement. The incidence of male breast cancer has increased over the past 25 years.
- The peak age for presentation of male breast cancer is >60 years.
- There is wide variation in incidence - for example, high rates in Zambia (thought to be related to hyperoestrogenism from endemic liver infections). A lower incidence is seen in Japan (for both men and women).
- Increasing age.
- Certain environments, eg furnace work, exposure to radiation and possibly electromagnetic fields.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (as in petrol and exhaust fumes).
- Exogenous oestrogen.
- Klinefelter's syndrome (47XXY) - low testosterone and increased gonadotrophins. Breast cancer is up to 50 times more frequent in this group.
- Chronic liver conditions.
- Pituitary adenomas leading to hyperprolactinaemia (associated with bilateral breast cancer).
- Gynaecomastia does not lead to an increased risk.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Chest irradiation.
More than 40% of patients have stage III or IV disease at presentation.
- Painless lump,
- Pain (rarely),
- Nipple inversion or discharge,
- Skin changes, eg ulceration.
- Gynaecomastia - very rarely (see box, below).
- Skin change
- Palpable mass
- Palpable lymph nodes
Red flags which increase suspicion of breast cancer in men who present with gynaecomastia
- Unilateral enlargement
- Hard or irregular breast tissue
- Rapidly enlarging
- Recent onset
- Fixed mass
- Nipple or skin abnormalities
- >5 cm
- Axillary lymphadenopathy
Refer to a local one stop breast clinic if there is any doubt or any suspicion of breast cancer.
- Imaging: mammography (sensitivity 92% and specificity 90%) or ultrasonography.
- Tissue: fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) or either core or open biopsy. Biopsy is preferred as malignant cells on FNAC may be a ductal carcinoma in situ rather than more invasive disease.
Infiltrating ductal cancer is the most common tumour type. Inflammatory carcinoma and Paget's disease of the breast are also been seen in men. Lymph node involvement and the pattern of metastatic spread are similar to those found in female breast cancer. The (tumour, nodes, metastases (TNM) staging system for male breast cancer is identical to the staging system for female breast cancer:
- Stage 0: 10% of male breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ.
- Stage I: tumour up to 2 cms in diameter and no lymph node involvement or metastasis.
- Stage II: tumour between 2 and 5 cms in diameter or there is spread to the axillary lymph nodes on the same side and the nodes are not adherent.
- Stage IIIA: tumour is over 5 cms in diameter or the nodes are adherent.
- Stage IIIB: invasive breast cancer in which a tumour of any size has spread to the breast skin, chest wall or internal mammary lymph nodes and includes inflammatory breast cancer with peau d'orange.
- Stage IV: spread beyond the breast, axilla and internal mammary nodes. It may have spread to supraclavicular nodes, bone, liver, lung or brain.
- Surgery: wide local excision or mastectomy (more common in men as there is paucity of breast tissue and the nipple is usually removed). This may be associated with axillary lymph node sampling and clearance. Sentinel node biopsy is being used in clinically node-negative disease. The patient may need skin flap or nipple reconstruction.
- Radical mastectomy has now been replaced by less invasive procedures such as modified radical or simple mastectomy. Axillary node dissection may be performed but may cause complications such as lymphoedema and paraesthesia.
Adjuvant hormone therapy
Adjuvant local radiotherapy or post-mastectomy. Regional lymph nodes may also be treated with radiotherapy.
- Chemotherapy: regimens using cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil and taxanes (paclitaxel, docetaxel) have been used with improved survival rates. The role of taxanes, however, remains to be elucidated.
- Trastuzumab is used when more adverse features are present, as in women (see section on trastuzumab in the separate Breast Cancer article). However, there is currently no information on the benefits of trastuzumab in male breast cancer.
- For metastatic or more advanced disease, hormonal therapies are the main treatments used. Chemotherapy has been used as a second line (and for palliative purposes also).
- Other therapies that have been used include:
- Gonadal ablation in metastatic male breast cancer.
- Adjuvant aromatase inhibitors, eg anastrozole.
There is often a delay in diagnosis of male breast cancer, thus prognosis at presentation is worse in comparison with women.
Further reading & references
- Breast cancer in men, CancerHelp UK
- UK Breast Cancer Incidence Statistics, Cancer Research UK
- Niewoehner CB, Schorer AE; Gynaecomastia and breast cancer in men. BMJ. 2008 Mar 29;336(7646):709-13.
- Gomez-Raposo C, Zambrana Tevar F, Sereno Moyano M, et al; Male breast cancer. Cancer Treat Rev. 2010 Oct;36(6):451-7. Epub 2010 Mar 2.
- Fentiman IS, Fourquet A, Hortobagyi GN; Male breast cancer. Lancet. 2006 Feb 18;367(9510):595-604.
- Weiss JR, Moysich KB, Swede H; Epidemiology of male breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Jan;14(1):20-6.
- Giordano SH; A review of the diagnosis and management of male breast cancer. Oncologist. 2005 Aug;10(7):471-9.
- Male Breast Cancer Treatment, National Cancer Institute
- Johansen Taber KA, Morisy LR, Osbahr AJ 3rd, et al; Male breast cancer: risk factors, diagnosis, and management (Review). Oncol Rep. 2010 Nov;24(5):1115-20.
- Macmillan Cancer Support (Cancerbackup); Breast Cancer in Men.
- Hayes TG; Pharmacologic treatment of male breast cancer. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2009 Oct;10(15):2499-510.
|Original Author: Dr Gurvinder Rull||Current Version: Dr Colin Tidy||Peer Reviewer: Dr Helen Huins|
|Last Checked: 19/01/2012||Document ID: 2417 Version: 23||© EMIS|
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