Treatment delays result in poor outcomes for men with breast cancer

July 6, 2008

Men who develop breast cancer are often not treated until the disease has spread to the point that treatment becomes difficult, new results show.

Although most breast cancer patients are women, men make up roughly 1% of cases, Dr. Marina Garassino from the Orion Collaborative Group reports at the ESMO Conference Lugano (ECLU), organized by the European Society for Medical Oncology.

Her group conducted a retrospective analysis of 146 men with invasive breast cancer who were diagnosed between 1990 and 2007 across the 12 institutions in the ORION collaborative group.

What they found was that the disease often had already reached an advanced stage when the men were diagnosed. In 50% of cases the cancer had already reached the lymph nodes, a development that increases the likelihood of metastatic spread to other parts of the body.

All the men underwent surgery to remove their cancer. After surgery, 48 received radiotherapy and 100 received adjuvant chemotherapy or hormone therapy. After a median follow-up of 5.2 years, the estimated 10-year disease-free survival rates were 80% for men with the earliest stages of disease, and 44% for those with the largest tumors.

When the researchers looked at the characteristics of the tumors, they found that 73% were positive for estrogen receptors and/or progesteron receptors. Among a sub-group of 41 patients, 48.7% had tumors that overexpressed the protein HER-2/neu, which is an indication of an aggressive tumor.

"Male breast cancer is a rare disease and not well known," Dr. Garassino said. "It is treated the same way as female breast cancer, although our large retrospective series suggests that it has somewhat different histological characteristics."

If treated early enough, the disease is highly responsive to hormone therapy, Dr. Garassino said. In those cases, the prognosis may even be better than in women, she added. An ongoing case-control trial is examining this suggestion.

"What is important for people to know is that most of the patients in our study had a delay in their diagnosis due to the fact that a mass in their breast was misunderstood," Dr. Garassino said. "Therefore it is important that every mass in a man's breast must immediately be considered suspicious."

"Better understanding of male breast cancer will also provide better insights for treating these patients with modern targeted therapies", the researcher added. "We are currently conducting a molecular study on tissues to define help characteristics that might be important for this purpose."

Source: European Society for Medical Oncology

Explore further: Study estimates global cancer cases, deaths in 2015

Related Stories

Study estimates global cancer cases, deaths in 2015

December 3, 2016

In 2015, there were an estimated 17.5 million cancer cases around the globe and 8.7 million deaths, according to a new report from the Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration published online by JAMA Oncology.

Targeting breast cancer metabolism to fight the disease

November 28, 2016

How does a cancer cell burn calories? New research from Thomas Jefferson University shows that breast cancer cells rely on a different process for turning fuel into energy than normal cells. The results were recently published ...

Recommended for you

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

Deep brain stimulation may not boost memory

December 7, 2016

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of areas in the brain known to be involved in making memories does not improve memory performance, according to a study by Columbia University researchers published December 7 in Neuron. The study ...

Knowing one's place in a social hierarchy

December 7, 2016

When you start a new job, it's normal to spend the first day working out who's who in the pecking order, information that will come in handy for making useful connections in the future. In an fMRI study published December ...

Half of people believe fake facts

December 7, 2016

Many people are prone to 'remembering' events that never happened, according to new research by the University of Warwick.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.