In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Valerie Brutus, a Breast Surgical Oncologist at St. Vincent's Medical Center of Hartford HealthCare, spoke with Oncology Data Advisor to raise awareness about the reality that men can get breast cancer too. Dr. Brutus explains the risk factors and the conversations that men can have with their health care providers to understand their individual risks for breast cancer.
Oncology Data Advisor: Welcome to Oncology Data Advisor, I'm Keira Smith. Today, I'm here with Dr. Valerie Brutus, who is a Breast Surgical Oncologist at St. Vincent's Medical Center of Hartford HealthCare in Connecticut.
Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one of the important topics to highlight is the fact that men can get breast cancer too. Would you like to tell us a little bit about the risk factors for breast cancer in men, as well as any screening recommendations that exist?
Valerie Brutus, MD, FACS: Men do get breast cancer, as well. The statistics for this year are that about 2,700 men are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer. It accounts for about 1% of the cases of breast cancer that are diagnosed in United States.
Risk factors for men are mostly from family history. We really want to emphasize family history—specifically if there's a strong family history of having breast cancer or a family history of having a genetic mutation—because that puts individuals at an increased risk for breast cancer. These rates are also going to apply for males.
For screening for breast cancer, we do it case by case. There are not any guidelines to suggest that we should start to do annual imaging, such as a mammogram, for men. It's mostly what we call breast awareness. That just means that we want patients to be familiar with the way their breasts look and the way their breasts feel. They should also have a clinical breast exam done once a year by their primary care provider.
Oncology Data Advisor: Are there any particular differences in either treatment or outcomes for men versus women?
Dr. Brutus: There are no treatment differences. For stage-to-stage survival for both men and women— and we're using those terms for sex assigned at birth—it's about the same. Statistically, we know that men tend to present with breast cancer diagnosed at a later stage, just because there's not a lot of awareness for men to do breast exams, but the treatments are the same.
Oncology Data Advisor: Do you have any advice for ways to increase awareness of the risks of breast cancer in men, particularly in light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Dr. Brutus: Make sure that everybody's comfortable with their exam. Everybody knows that the risk for breast cancer in men is low, but it's there. The men who are at increased risk, those who have a family history of breast cancer, should have a discussion with their provider to ask "What's my risk? Do I need to have my genes tested? If I'm gene-positive, what are the next steps that I can do?" There's definitely that awareness to know what the risks are.
For patients who don't have any family history, just be aware of how you feel. I tell all my patients to examine themselves. An examination is looking to see whether the shape of the breast, the shape of the nipple, the skin, and everything else looks the same. If something looks different or if you feel something that's abnormal, just inform your provider so that we can do the necessary tests and see if there is an issue or not. But the majority of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer do very well.
Oncology Data Advisor: Great, thank you so much for sharing about this important topic.
About Dr. Brutus
Valerie Brutus, MD, FACS, is a Breast Surgical Oncologist at St. Vincent's Medical Center of Hartford HealthCare, Connecticut. She specializes in the treatment of patients with all stages of breast cancer, with interests in genetic testing, oncoplastic surgery, breast reconstruction, neoadjuvant chemotherapy, and sentinel node procedures. Dr. Brutus is a member of the American Association of Breast Surgeons, a member of the Society of Surgical Oncology, and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
For More Information
American Cancer Society (2022). Cancer facts and figures. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2022/2022-cancer-facts-and-figures.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Breast cancer in men. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/men/index.htm
Co M, Lee A & Kwong A (2022). Delayed presentation, diagnosis, and psychosocial aspects of male breast cancer. Cancer Med, 9(10): 3305–3309. DOI:10.1002/cam4.2953
Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Oncology Data Advisor.