Screening mammography for men yields high cancer detection rate

Screening mammography can provide significant value for men at a high risk of developing breast cancer, according to new research published in Radiology.

The study’s authors explored data from more than 1,800 men who underwent mammography at a tertiary academic medical center from January 2005 to April 2017. All men had a personal history of breast cancer, family history of breast cancer or genetic mutations. Could the team’s research help with the future development of screening guidelines, specifically for men?

“Mammographic screening has helped improve the prognosis for women with breast cancer,” lead author Yiming Gao, MD, department of radiology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, said in a prepared statement. “But men don't have any formalized screening guidelines, so they are more likely to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage and often don't do as well as women.”

Gao et al. noted that mammography detected 2,304 breast lesions during that 12-year timeframe, and 149 were biopsied. Forty-one (27.5%) of those lesions were malignant, good for a cancer detection rate (CDR) of 18 per 1,000 exams—much higher than the CDR of screening mammography for women. Sensitivity was 100%, and specificity was 95%.

Risk factors associated with breast cancer in men were a personal history of breast cancer, Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, genetic mutations and a family history of breast cancer.

“These results show that it is possible to detect male breast cancer early, and it appears that mammography is effective in targeted screening of high-risk men,” Gao said in the same statement. “We've shown that male breast cancer doesn't have to be diagnosed only when symptomatic.”