While breast cancer in men is rare, it does happen. In 2017, about 2,470 men are expected to be diagnosed with the disease.
As with women, most men are diagnosed with breast cancer based on the results of a mammogram. Still, because ultrasound imaging can help distinguish between non-cancerous and cancerous tumors in women with dense breasts, researchers wondered if adding ultrasound to the first exam for men with breast cancer symptoms would offer benefits.
A study suggests that incorporating ultrasound as part of the first exam for men with symptoms of breast cancer doesn’t add much value and that mammography should continue to be the main diagnostic tool for detecting breast cancer in men with symptoms.
The research, “Ultrasound in Diagnostic Imaging Evaluation of the Symptomatic Male Breast: Added Value or Added Costs?” was presented on Nov. 27, 2016 at the Radiological Society of North America Annual Meeting.
In the study, the researchers looked at the records of 360 men older than 25 who had symptoms of breast cancer, including feeling a lump, pain, and nipple discharge. The men were all scheduled to have imaging of one or more areas of their breasts between March 2006 and March 2015. Each area that was imaged was considered a case; there were 399 cases among the 360 men.
Among the 360 men, 15 cancers were diagnosed by mammography. After a mammogram, 278 of the 399 cases were assessed with ultrasound. The ultrasound tests found no additional cancers.
"We didn't find that use of ultrasound in male breast cancer was useful in detecting new cancers," said Eric Blaschke, M.D., one of the study’s authors in an interview. "I don't think ultrasound is necessary in these patients to detect cancer. We had between 2 and 10 years’ follow-up with these patients and we found no additional cancers.
"When there is a cancer in these patients it shows up rather easily with mammography," he added. “In my practice now, if we have a negative mammogram or a benign finding, we don’t think it is necessary to do an ultrasound.”
To learn more about breast cancer in men, including symptoms and treatments, visit the Breastcancer.org Male Breast Cancer pages.