Current state of surgical management for male breast cancer

Vladimir Popa-Nimigean, Muneer Ahmed


Management guidelines for male breast cancer have long been extrapolated from those for female breast cancer, which are based on large, randomised-controlled trials. While there are no randomised-controlled trials for male breast cancer management mainly due to the rarity of the disease, the only type of evidence available comes from retrospective studies, subject to selection biases and small sample sizes. Male breast cancer, while similar to female breast cancer in many respects, has some important differences that can affect management choices. Most cancers are oestrogen and progesterone receptor positive, and usually more advanced at presentation than female breast cancer. This is likely due to less breast parenchyma in male patients and delay to diagnosis. The classical management option for male patients with breast cancer is mastectomy, due to small tumour-to-breast ratio and often central position of the tumour. Breast conserving surgery is still useful in selected cases and has similar outcomes when compared to mastectomies in these patients. For patients with clinically negative lymph nodes, sentinel lymph node biopsy offers the same prognosis as axillary lymph node dissection, but with less associated morbidity. Endocrine therapy is of particular use, due to high levels of receptor positivity. Adjuvant endocrine therapy seems to significantly improve overall survival of male patients with breast cancer and while no prospective evidence exists for neoadjuvant hormonal therapy, there is hope that this is a useful management option as well. Radiotherapy is also useful in an adjuvant setting, particularly when combined with endocrine therapy. Better identification of patients, less delay from presentation to diagnosis and more collaborative efforts are key in improving the management, prognosis and outcomes of patients with male breast cancer.