New research published recently in the journal Radiology suggests the need for improved mammography screening for men who are at high risk for breast cancer.
Though breast cancer is not common in men, and indeed perhaps because of its rarity, early detection of the disease is significantly lacking in the male population when compared to women. If we want to save lives, we should change that, advocates the lead author of the new study, Yiming Gao, M.D., from the Department of Radiology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Gao commented:
"Mammographic screening has helped improve the prognosis for women with breast cancer. But men don't have any formalized screening guidelines, so they are more likely to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage and often don't do as well as women." According to the American Cancer Society, 2019 will bring 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer in men, along with 500 mortalities.
In the study, the researchers analyzed breast imaging utilization patterns and screening outcomes in 1,869 men who received mammography over a 12-year period. They found that screening in men with high-risk factors such as a personal history of breast cancer, Ashkenazi ancestry, genetic mutations, and first-degree family history of breast cancer could significantly improve detection rates. In fact, the detection rate seen in their analysis was 18 per 1000 examinations, which is actually higher than the detection rate for women (which sits at 3-5 per 1000 examinations).
"These results show that it is possible to detect male breast cancer early, and it appears that mammography is effective in the targeted screening of high-risk men," Dr. Gao said. "We've shown that male breast cancer doesn't have to be diagnosed only when symptomatic."
The researchers hope that their findings will encourage medical institutions to develop formal screening guidelines for men in high-risk groups. "Rethinking our strategy toward male breast cancer diagnosis is necessary," Dr. Gao said. "We hope these results will provide a foundation for further investigations, and potentially help pave the way to standardizing screening for certain high-risk groups of men."