Breast Cancer in Men

Male breast cancer is a rare disease. In the United States, fewer than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men. In 2022, about 2,710 American men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 530 are expected to die from the disease. An average man’s risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime is about one in 1,000 (compared to one in eight for the average woman).

Doctors say that men should be familiar with how their chest muscles and breast tissue normally looks and feels so they can be aware of any changes. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chances it can be successfully treated. The outcomes of men with breast cancer are about the same as those of women diagnosed at the same age and stage.

Since there are relatively few cases of breast cancer in men compared to women, there is less information and research focused specifically on male breast cancer. As a result, treatment decisions for male breast cancer are often based on studies of breast cancer in women. Fortunately, more clinical trials of breast cancer treatments are now including men.

If you are a man who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is worth finding out if you can enroll in a clinical trial of a treatment that might be beneficial for you. Some men who have had breast cancer say they felt especially shocked and isolated by their diagnosis because everyone views breast cancer as a women’s disease. Many say they had never met other men who had breast cancer. It is important to know that support is available through groups like the Male Breast Cancer Coalition.

The Male Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit patient advocacy organization, can connect you with other men diagnosed with breast cancer for one-to-one peer support. The organization also has conferences, an email list, online message boards, and monthly virtual support group meetings. Contact the coalition for more information.

Impairments, Limitations, Physical Disabilities and Breast Cancer

Physical disabilities and breast-cancer

All women are at risk for breast cancer and need to be aware of early detection methods and treatment for breast cancer. Women living with a physical disability (limbs, skeletal, vision, etc.) may face challenges that make it hard to do a breast self-exam and/or get a mammogram.

It is recommended that all women perform a Breast Self-Exam (BSE), have an annual Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) by their healthcare provider and begin annual mammograms when appropriate.

Practicing BSE may be difficult if you have limited arm and hand movement, or limited sensation in your fingers. You may need someone to help you examine your breasts. Make sure it is someone with whom you feel safe and comfortable. Ask this person to describe what they are noticing as they go through the process and to write it down so you can share this information with your healthcare provider at your next clinical exam.

Women with physical disabilities face multiple barriers to access, detection and diagnosis that may result in delayed treatment and increased risk of poorer outcomes from breast cancer. Providers require education about working with women with disabilities. Women must find a mammography center that really is accessible and user-friendly.

Getting Screened: Tips for Women with Disabilities

If you are a woman living with a disability, you may face challenges that make it hard to get a mammogram. Here are some questions to ask when scheduling your mammogram that can help you prepare for your appointment:

  • How should I dress?
  • How do I prepare if I use a wheelchair or a scooter?
  • Can the machine be adjusted so I can remain seated?
  • How long is the appointment and can I have more time if I need it?
  • Does the mammography screening room have enough swing space to make maneuvering a wheelchair, especially a motorized chair even possible?
  • Is the staff trained, comfortable, and willing to position both a mammography machine and a woman with a physical disability?

Let the scheduling staff, radiology technicians, or radiologist know if you can/cannot:

  • Sit upright with or without assistance.
  • Lift and move your arms.
  • Transfer from your chair/scooter.
  • Undress/dress without assistance.

When preparing for your mammogram, remember:

  • Wear a blouse or shirt that opens in the front.
  • No need to wear a bra or wear a bra that you can remove easily.
  • Do not put use underarm deodorant or body powder.
  • If you have any disability-related concerns, discuss them with your primary care physician, women’s health specialist, radiologist, physician’s assistant, or other healthcare professional.