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Unilateral male breast masses: cancer risk and their evaluation and management.

American Surgeon 1999 March
Breast cancer is an uncommon cause of breast enlargement in the adult male. Overall, it accounts for <1 per cent of all male cancers. Although most male breast carcinomas are clinically apparent, distinguishing early breast cancer from gynecomastia, the most common cause of male breast enlargement, is considered a difficult task. To overcome this difficulty, many surgeons proceed directly to surgery as their initial diagnostic test. Although appropriate in some cases, the infrequent occurrence of male breast cancer and the diagnostic accuracy of mammography and fine-needle aspiration cytology suggest a modification of our present management. The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of breast cancer in men with unilateral breast masses and to propose a treatment algorithm for unilateral male breast masses. The medical records of 36 male patients who underwent subcutaneous mastectomy for a unilateral breast mass at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Medical Center between 1989 and 1996 were retrospectively reviewed. Data was collected on a standard data form. The median age was 63-years-old (range, 22-82). Gynecomastia was diagnosed in 30 patients (83%), lipoma in 4 patients (11%), invasive breast cancer in 1 patient (3%), and melanoma in situ in 1 patient (3%). Of the 30 patients with gynecomastia, 60% (18 patients) gave a history of a medical condition or use of medications known to cause gynecomastia, compared with 16 per cent (1 of 6) of the patients without gynecomastia (P = 0.08). Half of the patients with gynecomastia presented with an asymptomatic mass compared with 67 per cent of the patients without gynecomastia (P = not significant). The median duration of symptoms for patients with gynecomastia was 3 months. Men with unilateral breast masses have a low incidence of breast cancer. A male patient with a palpable unilateral breast mass consistent with gynecomastia on the basis of historical, physical and mammographic findings does not require surgical biopsy unless other clinical indications prevail. Lack of symptoms (pain) related to the mass is probably not helpful in deciphering gynecomastia from breast cancer.

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