Less breast tissue doesn’t mean NO breast tissue and so, YES men can have a mammogram!
Routine mammograms are not the norm of screening for men. Unfortunately because no one is looking, men are often diagnosed with breast cancer when it has further progressed. So when and how does a man receive a mammogram?
Breast cancer in men accounts for around 1% of breast cancer diagnosis. In 2021 it is expected there will be approximately 2650 diagnoses of male breast cancer and of that number approximately 700 of them will die.
Young boys and girls both have breast tissue that includes structures we know as ducts. Once puberty begins, while girls will begin to develop these ducts with the production of female hormones, male hormones such as Testosterone suppress the growth of breast tissue. Men still continue though to have non-functioning breast tissue behind their chest wall with cells that can cause uncontrolled abnormal growth.
In most cases, men discover their own breast cancer with symptoms such as; lump, thickening or redness of breast tissue or inverted, itchy, redness, pain or leakage of nipple. Learning how to perform a self breast examination and becoming familiar with your breast tissue are important for early detection. Setting a monthly reminder on your calendar is helpful or adopting the “check them on the first” is even better.
If a “change” is noticed or felt, your doctor would then suggest you have a mammogram completed. Just as mammography has helped detect breast cancer early in women, it can help men. A standard mammogram usually consists of taking 2 images of each breast.
A diagnostic mammogram helps once a lump or abnormalities are identified and additional images are taken at this time to help provide more details. In addition, a breast MRI and/or ultrasound may also be completed.
A mammogram is taken by placing the breast in between two plates that are used to compress the best tissue for the best possible picture. Although this may cause some discomfort, it is not usually painful. The mammography machine is a type of X-ray with a much lower dose than regular X-rays that reads bones and is designed specifically to read breast tissue. The testing time takes about 15 minutes and is completed by undressing from the waist up. After, a radiologist will review the images and a report will be sent to your prescribing doctor.
Screening mammograms help reduce the risk of death by providing earlier detection. The mammogram helps detect all types of breast cancer, including growths enclosed in the milk ducts of the breast (yes men have these) called ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS and Invasive ductal and lobular cancer.
Should you also carry a hereditary genetic mutation such as BRCA that can increase your risk of male breast cancer, and be over 35 years of age, you may also be eligible to receive a base-line mammogram, with yearly follow ups.
It’s important to discuss your family history with your physician to best determine what surveillance would be best for you. Becoming familiar with your breast to notice any changes is critical. If you feel you may be at a higher risk for a breast cancer diagnosis, speak with your doctor about having a mammography completed. Early detection is what helps to save lives!