Close to a quarter of a million cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in women in the United States each year. For men, breast cancer is much more of an anomaly, being diagnosed at a rate that amounts to less than one percent of the rate seen in women. In fact, the American Cancer Society says that only about 2,240 breast cancer cases are diagnosed in males in a typical year.

The comparative rarity of men having the disease unfortunately means that many doctors are not looking for or seeing its symptoms, which in turn can lead to a failure to diagnose in a timely and effective fashion.

The results of a delayed diagnosis can be dire, since, as one oncologist says, “right off the bat, the lump or mass is going to be a later-stage tumor.”

In other words, the diagnosis of male breast cancer is often accurately made at a much later time than it commonly is for women, which means that the disease is more advanced and less susceptible of treatment in many cases.

The rarity of male breast cancer makes most men not even consider the possibility and flatly ignore symptoms such as a lump or bleeding. Many men view the disease as being exclusively a female ailment.

“Both the patient and the doctor often don’t have a high level of suspicion it is breast cancer,” notes another oncologist, adding that, as a result, some physicians don’t follow through with biopsies that can reveal the disease and enable the cancer to be appropriately and timely treated.

And thus its diagnosis is delayed, sometimes tragically so. The American Cancer Society states that the average age at which breast cancer is discovered in men is 68.

Source: Washington Post, “Because male breast cancer is rare, many cases aren’t caught till later stages,” Laura Hambleton, Feb. 25, 2013