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Male Breast Cancer and Surgery

How Male Breast Cancer Treatment Differs From Breast Cancer in Women

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Updated August 07, 2010

breast cancer mastectomy

Modified Radical Mastectomy

Photo © A.D.A.M.

Breast Cancer in Males

While men make up only 1% of breast cancer patients, the disease is just as serious for men as it is for women. Fortunately, while most breast cancer surgery information is targeted for women, much of this information is also appropriate for men.

The types of treatment available for the treatment of breast cancer, including total mastectomy and modified radical mastectomy, are standard treatments for both men and women. The one difference in the treatment of male breast cancer is that a lumpectomy is typically not an option. There is typically far less tissue in a man’s breast than a woman’s breast, which means a tumor of the same size spreads through a greater percentage of the breast in a man than in a woman, making a mastectomy a better option.

The smaller amount of breast tissue can assist in an early diagnosis, as a small lump can be more noticeable in a smaller amount of breast tissue than in a larger amount of tissue.

Breast Cancer Surgery For Males

The course of treatment after surgery may include chemotherapy and radiation and is given as the cancer dictates. Reconstruction of the breast or breasts is a matter of personal preference and involvement of a plastic surgeon early in the surgery planning is important.

The choice to have reconstruction should be made before the mastectomy when possible as immediate reconstruction, or reconstruction during the same surgery as the mastectomy, is possible.

Delayed reconstruction, or reconstruction of the breast after the day of the mastectomy, is also an option. However, some men will require an implant to make the breast size the same as the remaining breast and immediate reconstruction is recommended if an implant is required. This is because the combination of radiation and any skin stretching necessary to insert the implant can damage the skin and decrease the cosmetic appeal of the results.

Breast Cancer, Males and Embarassment

Many male breast cancer patients have an element of embarrassment regarding the diagnosis of breast cancer. There is a perception that it is a woman’s disease, and therefore men feel shame with the diagnosis. There is no reason to feel ashamed about the diagnosis of cancer of any type, a cancer survivor is exactly that, a survivor. The location of the tumor should not cause shame.

Because breast cancer in males is rare, it may be difficult to find a support group outside of large cities. For men outside of major cities, online support groups can be a fantastic resource.

Sources:

Breast Cancer in Men. American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancerinMen/DetailedGuide/index

Breast Reconstruction. Susan G. Komen Foundation http://cms.komen.org/Komen/AboutBreastCancer/Treatment/3-5-8?ssSourceNodeId=99&ssSourceSiteId=Komen

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