Male patients with unilateral breast symptoms: an optimal imaging approach

Eur Radiol. 2020 Aug;30(8):4242-4250. doi: 10.1007/s00330-020-06828-3. Epub 2020 Apr 3.


Objectives: To evaluate the usefulness of bilateral mammography in male patients with unilateral breast symptoms, including investigation of the diagnostic performance of unilateral and bilateral reviews and the average glandular dose (AGD) per exposure.

Methods: Two hundred seventy-one consecutive male patients (mean age, 57 years) with unilateral breast symptoms underwent bilateral mammography. Image interpretation was performed in two ways, first with a unilateral review of the symptomatic breast and then with a bilateral review. A modified BI-RADS scale (from 1 to 5) was used. The diagnostic performance of unilateral and bilateral reviews was compared, and contralateral breast abnormalities and the AGD per exposure were recorded. We also analyzed ultrasound (US) results and compared them with mammography.

Results: Of 271 male patients, 29 were pathologically diagnosed with breast cancer. There was no bilateral breast cancer. The sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and accuracy were 96.6%, 96.7%, 77.8%, 99.6%, and 96.7%, respectively, for unilateral review, and 96.6%, 95.9%, 73.7%, 99.6%, and 95.9% for bilateral review. Receiver operator characteristic analysis showed excellent diagnostic performance for both methods: the area under the curve (AUC) was 0.966 for unilateral review and 0.962 for bilateral review (p = 0.415). The mean AGD per exposure was 1.10 ± 0.29 mGy for symptomatic breast and 1.04 ± 0.30 mGy for contralateral breast (p < 0.001). Diagnostic performance parameters of US were not significantly different from bilateral or unilateral review of mammography.

Conclusion: The diagnostic performance of unilateral mammography is comparable with bilateral mammography in male patients with unilateral breast symptoms. Unilateral mammography also has the advantage of reducing radiation exposure.

Key points: • There is limited knowledge about standardized guidelines or recommendations for imaging the male breast. • Unilateral mammography for male patients with unilateral breast symptoms showed comparable diagnostic performance with bilateral mammography. • Both unilateral and bilateral mammography showed excellent diagnostic performance in the assessment of male patients with unilateral breast symptoms.

Keywords: Male breast cancer; Mammography; Radiation dose.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms, Male / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gynecomastia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammography / methods*
  • Mastodynia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • ROC Curve
  • Radiation Exposure
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Unilateral Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Young Adult