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Breast Cancer

Mammograms and men?

10/09/2007

Question:

In the process of developing the mammogram screening procedure was there ever a study done screening men? While I realize that it`s a bit of an apples and oranges situation, they are the closest thing we have to a negative control group. But since the incidence of metastatic breast cancer in men is infinitely smaller than in women, it seems like knowing how a statistically significant number of men`s mammograms are interpreted might give us a better idea of what mammograms can and can`t find. And also new ideas as to how to research breast cancer development and treatment, since no one can argue that the incidence of breast cancer in women only continues to increase.

Answer:

There are no screening mammogram studies in men that I am aware of. Remember, in order for a screening test to find a significant number of patients with a certain disease, there needs to be an adequate number of cases that exist. The incidence of breast cancer in men is so rare that there would be such a low cost/benefit ratio to the number of tests needed to be performed in order to find anything. Plus, most men have such little breast tissue that the mammograms would only be imaging the pectoralis muscle. The treatment and survival for men with breast cancer is, stage for stage, the same as women. The difference, as you pointed out, is that most are locally advanced once identified. I would not agree that most are metastatic to other organs at the time of diagnosis, however.

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Response by:

Jennifer B Manders, MD Jennifer B Manders, MD
Formerly:
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati