Surgery is the most common treatment for men with breast cancer. About 98 percent of male breast cancer patients are treated with mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast).
Today, most male patients are treated by total mastectomy, in which the breast is removed but the chest wall muscles are spared.
Breast-conserving surgery is usually not a treatment option for men due to the small amount of tissue located under the nipple in the male breast. However, some men may choose breast-conserving surgical procedures to avoid a mastectomy. The most common form of breast-conserving surgery for men is lumpectomy, in which the surgeon removes only the cancerous breast tissue and a margin of normal tissue around it, sparing the rest of the breast. Patients who choose this treatment generally require radiation therapy to the breast area after surgery.
The sentinel lymph node is the first lymph node (or group of nodes) under the arm that is reached by tumor cells that have broken away from the tumor and spread through the bloodstream. Its status is an important factor in patients with breast cancer and helps doctors determine how far the cancer has spread.
Male breast cancer patients who do not have obvious involvement of the lymph nodes in the armpit are offered sentinel lymph node biopsy.
During surgery on a primary breast tumor, the surgeon identifies and removes the sentinel lymph node under the arm. The node is then sent to a pathologist. If a sentinel lymph node is found to contain cancer cells, the remaining lymph nodes are removed in a procedure called axillary lymph node dissection. If the sentinel lymph node is free of cancer, the patient is spared from having the remaining lymph nodes removed.