Ask an Expert: Breast cancer in men

Q. I didn’t realize until recently that men can also get breast cancer. How common is it? If the women in my family have a history of breast cancer, should I be concerned?

Answer from the expert staff of breast cancer research at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center at Providence Portland Medical Center: In Providence Health & Services, we may see five cases of male breast cancer each year. Men represent about a tenth of 1 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed, and that rate is not increasing. Breast cancer in men is often diagnosed at more advanced stages than in women, because men aren’t watching out for breast cancer. The condition is treated in men the same way it’s treated in women.

Breast cancer in men is often tied to genetics. In particular, it is associated with a mutation in the BRCA2 gene. When we find a genetic mutation in a breast cancer patient, we recommend that all close relatives – male and female – have genetic counseling to assess their risk.

Last updated: June 2003

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