While they are most commonly used for women, mammograms can be used to help detect breast cancer in men at high risk for the disease, a new study says.
Published in Radiology in September, the research found that mammography screenings in high-risk men detected cancer in 18 of 1,000 examinations. The retrospective study reviewed mammograms performed on men over a 12-year period.
In addition to high rates of detection, the mammograms were accurate nearly 100 percent of the time. Compared to women, men have relatively less breast tissue, making accurate readings easier.
“Mammography screening has helped detect breast cancer early in women, and we have shown it can do the same for men,” said lead study researcher Yiming Gao, assistant professor in the Department of Radiology at New York University.
Cases of breast cancer in men are rare. They account for less than 1 percent of all breast cancer cases, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. But breast cancer in men is deadly. Because awareness of male breast cancer is considerably lower, diagnoses are often later, delaying treatment. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer in men this year, with about 500 deaths.
“At an individual level, men should be aware that they can have breast cancer, too,” Gao said. “And they should remember to discuss breast cancer risk with their physician if they have any known risk factors, such as multiple family members with breast cancer at a young age.”
Besides a family history of breast cancer, other risk factors include Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and genetic mutations.
Historically, few men are screened for breast cancer via mammography. Instead, clinicians generally rely on looking for symptoms of breast cancer, such as painful lumps, and standard breast exams. However, the study found that mammograms were even more effective in finding lesions in men at high risk than they were in women at average risk.
Because the disease is so rare in men, the researchers said they are not suggesting that mammograms become routine for all men.
“More data are needed before meaningful recommendations can be made, or clinical guidelines can be altered,” Gao said.
From The Nation’s Health