Male Breast Cancer Often Diagnosed Too Late, Lowering Survival Chances: CDC
The findings of a new study highlight potential concerns about delayed diagnosis of breast cancer among men, indicating the problems are often detected too late, decreasing their chance of survival.
Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that survival rates for male breast cancer decrease drastically when a man is diagnosed late. In the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published October 16, researchers called for improved patient education to help increase early diagnosis.
The CDC researchers conducted a study of male patients diagnosed with breast cancer, focusing on survival rates, which are not commonly studied the way female breast cancer survival rates are..
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There were 2,300 new male breast cancer diagnoses in 2017, leading to 500 deaths occurring that year in the U.S. alone. In the United States, breast cancer among males remains rare and accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers.
The CDC used data from the National Program of Cancer Registries using data from nearly 15,000 men diagnosed from 2007 to 2016.
The researchers found survival rates for men with breast cancer are quite good, reaching 96% at one year and 85% at five years. However, when a man is diagnosed at a later stage, survival rates drop to 26% at the five-year mark.
Roughly half of men with breast cancer received their diagnosis after it had already spread to other parts of the body. Overall, one in 10 cases of male breast cancer are diagnosed in the later stages. Late stage diagnosis can be lethal.
Black men are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage. Roughly 12% of Black men are diagnosed after the cancer has spread, whereas about 8% of white men are diagnosed after the cancer has spread. Furthermore, transgender females who transitioned from male to female have a higher risk of breast cancer than cisgender males.
The risk for male breast cancer increases with age. Men are often diagnosed later because they, as well as their doctors, are not looking for breast cancer because it is not common in men.
CDC researchers encourage primary care doctors to question men about breast lumps and their family history of breast cancer. Early and aggressive treatment is the key to long-term survival.
The symptoms of breast cancer in men are the same as those in women, including a painless lump or thickening in breast tissue, skin dimpling, puckering, thickening, redness or scaling, nipple discharge, ulceration, or retraction.
A family history of breast cancer is also important, including genes that can raise breast cancer risk in women, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Those genes are similar in men.
Additionally, men should be encouraged to conduct breast cancer self exams beginning at age 35, the CDC advises. They can also undergo counseling and testing for genetic mutations.
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