Radiation Frequency Questioned for Male Breast Cancer

Study suggests men, women be treated using same guidelines

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WEDNESDAY, June 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Though rare, breast cancer in men can be deadly.

And a new study shows that men with a breast malignancy that has not spread beyond the breast are nearly six times more likely to undergo radiotherapy than women with the equivalent stage of the disease, suggesting that some male breast cancer patients may be receiving unnecessary radiation treatments.

Researchers reporting in the June 22 issue of the Annals of Oncology believe doctors treating male breast cancer patients should follow the same guidelines they use for their female patients.

"If we do have presumptions about prognosis purely on the basis of sex, we would do better to ditch them and apply the same guidelines for radiotherapy treatment to men as we do for women," study author Dr. Graham Macdonald, a consultant in clinical oncology at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in Scotland, said in a prepared statement. Macdonald was a fellow in radiation oncology in Vancouver, Canada, at the time of the study.

The researchers found that radiotherapy is common among male breast cancer patients who have undergone mastectomy. That's because the smaller male breast makes it difficult for surgeons to leave a clear margin of healthy tissue after they remove the tumor. Because of this, there's a belief that men are at an increased risk of tumor recurrence, compared with women.

However, this study of 60 male and more than 4,000 female breast cancer patients concluded that gender was not a factor in either tumor recurrence, breast cancer survival or overall survival.

About 1,700 American men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about male breast cancer.

SOURCES: Annals of Oncology, news release, June 22, 2005

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