Treatment delays result in poor outcomes for men with breast cancer

Jul 06, 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: UBC team tracks measles cases introduced to B.C. during the 2010 Games

Related Stories

'Decoding' gene regulation

Jun 11, 2015

Researchers at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna as well as at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna have discovered ...

Recommended for you

Childhood stress fuels weight gain in women

2 minutes ago

When it comes to weight gain for women, childhood stress appears to be a bigger culprit than stress during adulthood, finds a national study led by a Michigan State University sociologist.

User comments : 0

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.