A recent study appears to confirm what most physicians already accept as generally true: male breast cancer tends to be more deadly than breast cancer in women. MedlinePlus, an online service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, reported that the study also hints that there are gender-specific differences in breast cancer that need to be explored further.
As a New York plastic surgery practice specializing in gynecomastia surgery, we are already well aware that breast cancer can be a more devastating diagnosis for men than for women, chiefly because it tends to be found later. Because less than 1% of all cases of breast cancer occur in men, many men are still not aware that they can get the disease. They don’t necessarily think about checking their breasts, and they may not know what to look for.
Dr. Jon Greif, the leader of the investigative team, pointed out that breast cancer tumors tend to be larger and at a more advanced stage when discovered in men. The cancer is also more likely to have spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
But what’s really interesting – and potentially alarming – about the study is that it suggests that the survival rate for women is better than for men, even when cancer is found at an early stage for both. Clearly this finding needs much more investigation to be confirmed and explained. We look forward to learning more as research continues.
We are known for treating gynecomastia in our New York plastic surgery practice, and in the course of our work with men from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and around the country, we often speak with our patients about breast cancer. Will this new study change what we tell them or how we treat them? Will we be sending tissue samples out for biopsy more often?
Probably not. The general consensus of plastic surgeons who specialize in gynecomastia surgery – and are therefore knowledgeable about male breasts – is that a biopsy of every patients’ excess breast tissue is not necessary. The topic has been discussed among gynecomastia surgeons and patients on gynecomastia.org, and the factor that stands out most is that male breast cancer is still relatively rare. Most plastic surgeons agree that automatic testing is not warranted.
We usually advise our patients not to worry unduly about breast cancer. In addition, there’s probably no need for most patients to elect a biopsy when planning male breast reduction surgery. That said, we absolutely do encourage the men we see to educate themselves. A good place to start is the American Cancer Society’s information on male breast cancer. Becoming an active participant on gynecomastia.org is another good idea.
We also explore with patients whether they may have additional risk factors to consider. One would be a strong history of breast cancer, male or female, in their family. Another would be symptoms that might suggest the presence of cancerous tissue, such as the appearance of a localized lump or pucker under the skin, swelling around the lymph nodes, discharge from the nipple and others.
Although most patients consult us in New York about plastic surgery for aesthetic reasons, the health and safety of each person we work with is our number one priority. If there is any doubt at all about tissues we remove during gynecomastia surgery, off to the lab they will go. Plus, we can refer our patients to genetic counselors and other specialists as needed.
If you’re struggling with enlarged male breasts, chances are you simply have gynecomastia – but we certainly understand if you’re concerned about male breast cancer as well. We have more than thirty years of experience to help you decide your next steps, and we invite you to consult us. Give us a call at 561-367-9101.

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