Breast cancer is much rarer in males than females. Guidelines for treating early breast cancer have focussed on the treatment of female patients. This study found that males with early breast cancer were treated differently from females, despite the lack of male-specific guidelines. A total of 151 cases of male breast cancer diagnosed and treated between 2000 and 2008 were compared with the treatment of female patients whose cancer was detected by their symptoms.

Results of the study showed that males were more likely to have only one tumour. These tumours were more likely to be oestrogen or progesterone receptor-positive and tended to be smaller than tumours in females.

Most males underwent mastectomy (86%), while only 3% of males had breast conserving surgery (compared with around half of female patients). A significant proportion of males did not have surgery (11%), which was twice the proportion of females, although no males in the study had refused surgery.

Males were also less likely to have a sentinel node biopsy than symptomatic female patients, and were less likely to undergo radiotherapy, chemotherapy or hormonal therapy for oestrogen receptor positive tumours. The low level of radiotherapy may be related to the high proportion of male patients who have mastectomy, although males were also less likely to receive chemotherapy than female mastectomy patients.