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Navigating Testing and Surveillance for Men with Familial Cancer Risks




In the realm of health, family history can serve as a crucial guidepost. For men with a family history of breast and other cancers, navigating genetic testing and surveillance becomes paramount. This blog delves into when genetic testing is warranted, how men can undertake surveillance effectively, the nuances of male mammograms, the risks of male breast cancer concerning genetic mutations, the role of self-examinations, and insurance coverage considerations.


Genetic Testing: When Should Men Consider It?

Men should contemplate genetic testing if they have a family history of breast cancer, especially if multiple family members are affected, or if there's a history of other cancers like ovarian, prostate, or pancreatic cancer. A genetic counselor can assess the risk factors and recommend testing if deemed necessary.

Genetic mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2 are known to increase the risk of breast cancer in men. However, even in the absence of these mutations, a strong family history of breast or other cancers may warrant increased surveillance.


Surveillance Strategies for Men at Higher Familial Risk

Surveillance for men with heightened familial cancer risks involves a multi-faceted approach. Regular clinical male breast exams by a healthcare professional are essential. Additionally, men should be vigilant about any changes in their breast tissue, such as lumps, swelling, or nipple discharge, and report them promptly.

Beyond breast exams, screening tests like mammograms and breast MRIs can be valuable, especially for men with significant familial risks. While mammograms are more commonly associated with women, they can also be conducted for men, albeit with some technical considerations.


Male Mammograms: Can and How?

A male mammogram involves compressing the breast tissue between two plates and capturing X-ray images. As men typically have less breast tissue than women, specialized techniques and equipment are often used to ensure accurate imaging and reduce discomfort.

During the procedure, the technologist positions the man's chest against the mammography machine and adjusts the plates as needed for optimal imaging. While it may feel slightly uncomfortable due to the compression, the process is generally well-tolerated.


Increased Risks of Male Breast Cancer with Family History and Genetic Mutations

Men with a family history of breast cancer, especially those with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, face significantly elevated risks. For example, men with BRCA2 mutations have a 6-8 times higher risk of developing breast cancer than the general male population. However, it's crucial to note that not all cases of male breast cancer are linked to genetic mutations.


Role of Self-Breast Examination and Early Detection

While self-breast examinations can raise awareness and prompt timely medical attention, their effectiveness in detecting early-stage breast cancer in men is limited due to the relatively small amount of breast tissue. However, any changes noticed during self-exams should be promptly discussed with a healthcare provider for further evaluation.


Insurance Coverage Considerations

Insurance coverage for male mammograms, breast MRIs, or PSA testing for prostate cancer often depends on the individual's insurance plan and the specific circumstances. With a documented family history of breast or prostate cancer, insurance companies are more likely to cover these screening tests. However, it's crucial to check with the insurance provider regarding coverage details and any out-of-pocket costs.


In conclusion, men with a family history of breast and other cancers should proactively consider genetic testing, maintain regular surveillance with clinical exams, and explore screening options like mammograms and MRIs based on their risk profile. Early detection through comprehensive surveillance and proactive healthcare measures can significantly improve outcomes for men at higher familial cancer risks.

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