Do men need double mastectomies, too?

Do men need double mastectomies, too?

Like their female counterparts, a growing number of men with breast cancer are electing to undergo double mastectomies, even if the cancer is only found in one breast.

The number of male breast cancer patients opting for surgical removal of the cancer-free breast nearly doubled between 2004 and 2011 from 3 percent to 5.6 percent, according to a study conducted by the American Cancer Society and Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

“The increase in the rate of this costly, serious procedure with no evidence of survival benefits comes, paradoxically at a time of greater emphasis on quality and value in cancer care,” lead researcher Dr. Ahmedin Jemal said in a news release. “Health care providers should be aware that the increase we’ve seen in removal of the unaffected breast is not limited to women, and doctors should carefully discuss with their male patients the benefits, harms, and costs of this surgery to help patients make informed decisions about their treatments.”

Breast cancer affects relatively few men, but the number may be growing.

“Although the absolute number of male breast cancer is low at less than 1 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S., there is a concern about a rise in the incidence of this problem, with some reports suggesting about a 25 percent increase in the last 25 years,” says Dr. Bhanu Vakkalanka, medical oncologist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.

In 2015, the American Cancer Society reported that nearly 2,350 U.S. men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 440 are expected to die from the disease.

Dr. Vakkalanka says this high mortality rate can be blamed on a lack of awareness of male breast cancer, which leads to a later-stage diagnosis.

Unlike female breast cancer, male breast cancers are easily detectable at a relatively early stage if men know what to look for. Lumps in the breast area, near the nipple, are the most identifiable symptom and should be reported to a doctor for further examination, along with any other noticeable changes to the chest wall, he says.

To learn more about breast health, visit Stories of the Girls.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.