Physicians commonly miss a breast cancer diagnosis in male patients, delaying the treatment they need to avoid the growth or spread of the disease. The later the stage in which doctors find male breast cancer, the less likely treatments are to cure patients of their conditions. Consequently, delaying the diagnosis of breast cancer in males may have a negative effect on patients’ prognoses and may increase their risk of death.
Why Do Doctors Miss Breast Cancer Diagnoses in Men?
Due to its rarity, doctors often do not initially look for breast cancer as a cause of male patients’ symptoms. According to the National Cancer Institute, less than 1% of all breast cancer cases occur in male patients. Additionally, males may not have the same familiarity with breast cancer symptoms as women or may not look for possible symptoms. As such, they may not seek medical care until their conditions have progressed to later stages.
What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men?
Men with breast cancer may experience signs and symptoms similar to those noticed by female patients. Some of the most common male breast cancer symptoms include the following:
- A lump in the breast or underarm areas
- Thickened skin in the breast or underarm areas
- An inverted nipple
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin in the breast area
- Changes to the shape or size of the breast or chest area
- Fluid or bloody discharge from the nipple
Men with breast cancer may also notice redness, scales, or swelling in the breast area.
How is Male Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
Doctors may order various tests when they suspect cancer in order to diagnose patients’ conditions. Physicians may perform clinical exams during which they feel for palpable lumps and examine the skin for noticeable changes. To aid in diagnosing breast cancer in male patients, doctors may also perform imaging tests, breast biopsies, and hormone sensitivity tests.
How is Breast Cancer in Men Treated?
The treatment plans for male patients with breast cancer may vary based on factors such as the cancer stage, the patient’s preferences, and the patient’s overall health. Some of the most commonly employed treatment options include surgery to remove cancerous tumors and the surrounding breast tissues, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. Patients’ medical teams may work together to develop treatment plans that include one or multiple of these options.