Why breast MRI may be helpful to male patients, too

For the last 10 years, researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have been compiling examples of when breast MRI may be helpful for male patients, according to a study published online Jan. 10 in Diagnostic Radiology.  

According to 2018 statistics from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer among men in the U.S. is about 100 times less common than among women, while the number of men diagnosed with breast cancer has remained stable.  

However, research is limited, with evidence lacking for when MRI is appropriate and beneficial for men. Specifically, researchers outlined six different cases of breast MRI scans of past male patients ages 31 to 71 who showed positive results of breast cancer, carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma.

"Although it is not common or recommended as a routine clinical practice to perform breast MRI in male patients even in the setting of a diagnosis of breast cancer, there are few instances where MRI may help clinicians and surgeons," wrote lead author Kyungmin K. Shin, MD, assistant professor of diagnostic radiology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and her colleagues. "With a comprehensive review of cases that was performed at our institution over the last 10 years, the readers may achieve better understanding of when it may be helpful to perform breast MRI in male patients."  

When breast MRI may benefit male patients  

According to data compiled by the researchers over last decade, breast MRI may be helpful to male patients for the following cases:  

  • Evaluating the posterior extent of disease or cancer for possible chest wall involvement.
  • Evaluating primary breast mass if there is a suspicion of inflammatory breast cancer; potential skin involvement in a known tumor, or residual disease after surgery. 
  • Post-surgical follow-up screening may be performed with a breast MRI and mammography and ultrasound.
  • Evaluating primary breast mass in the case of axillary metastasis or mass and negative mammography and ultrasound results.
  • Evaluating neoadjuvant chemotherapy treatment response in patients who have a known breast tumor(s).   

"Breast MRI is not routinely recommended in male patients. However, breast MRI may be helpful and should be considered in a small subset of patients," the authors concluded in their study.