Journal of Cytology
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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 28  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 84-86
Mucinous carcinoma in a male breast

Department of Pathology, VMMC and Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi, India

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Date of Web Publication12-May-2011


Male breast cancer is rare as compared to female counterpart. Pure mucinous carcinoma is an extremely rare histological subtype representing less than 1% of male breast cancers. So far very few cases of pure mucinous carcinoma of male breast have been reported in the literature, most of which were diagnosed after surgical resection. Fine-needle aspiration cytology is a well-established procedure for the evaluation of female breast masses but the diagnosis of malignancy in aspirates from male breast masses is rare. We herein present one case of mucinous carcinoma of breast in a 75-year-old male diagnosed by fine-needle aspiration and confirmed by histopathology. After a follow-up of 12 months the patient is free of any recurrence or metastasis.

Keywords: Cytology, male breast cancer, mucinous carcinoma

How to cite this article:
Aggarwal R, Rajni, Khanna G, Beg S. Mucinous carcinoma in a male breast. J Cytol 2011;28:84-6

How to cite this URL:
Aggarwal R, Rajni, Khanna G, Beg S. Mucinous carcinoma in a male breast. J Cytol [serial online] 2011 [cited 2023 Mar 28];28:84-6. Available from:

   Introduction Top

The existing epidemiological data confirms the infrequency of male breast cancer (MBC) which represents approximately 1% of all breast cancers. [1],[2] Overall, the epidemiology of MBC presents similarities with the epidemiology of female breast cancer. Men with BRCA-2 gene mutation are predisposed to develop breast cancer while those with BRCA-1 mutation are at a lesser risk. [3] Important risks in the development of MBC include conditions of estrogen-androgen imbalance such as testicular dysfunction, obesity and liver dysfunction. Environmental factor, such as exposure to ionising radiation, is a well-known risk factor in women as well as men. [4],[5] Recently gynecomastia has been shown not to be a risk factor for MBC in several series. [5],[6]

   Case Report Top

A 75-year-old male presented with a subareolar hard mass in the left breast, fixed to the overlying skin for one-year duration. There was no history of nipple discharge or familial breast cancer. Ultrasonography (USG) breast showed a well-defined hypoechoic lesion with well-defined margins in the left subareolar region. Tumor showed a well-defined lesion on mammography. A diagnosis of benign breast disease was made and fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) was advised. Subsequently FNAC was done using 22G needle. Both Giemsa and Papanicolaou staining were done. Smears showed abundant mucinous stroma in background with atypical cells seen lying in groups and also arranged linearly showing round to oval nuclei, regular nuclear margins and 1-2 prominent nucleoli. Possibility of mucinous carcinoma of breast (pure type) was suggested and biopsy was advised [Figure 1]a-b.
Figure 1: (a and b): FNAC smears demonstrating abundant mucinous stroma with scattered atypical cells (a: Giemsa, x100) (b: Giemsa, x400)

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Chest radiograph, ultrasound of the abdomen and routine blood investigations were within normal limit. A left radical mastectomy including left axillary lymph node dissection was performed. Histopathology showed tumor cells arranged in nests and solid pattern floating in abundant extracellular mucin and thus confirmed the diagnosis of mucinous breast carcinoma [Figure 2]. Lymph nodes were free of tumor cells. Immunohistochemical staining for hormonal study were negative for estrogen and progesterone receptors.
Figure 2: Section showing tumor cells in nests and solid pattern floating in abundant extracellular mucin (H and E, x400)

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   Discussion Top

MBC constitutes less than 1% of all cancers in men. [1] Men present at an older age than women (median age of 64.5 years) and MBC incidence increases with an advancing age. The most frequent type (about 90%) is invasive ductal carcinoma. Pure mucinous carcinoma of the male breast is an extremely rare neoplasm. [7] Very few cases of primary mucinous carcinoma have been reported in male breast.

Histologically pure mucinous carcinoma can be classified as pure and mixed forms. Pure mucinous carcinoma usually presents as a round and well-circumscribed lesion on the mammography. On breast USG, the tumor has well-defined margins, and it is iso-echogenic relative to the fat surrounding the breast tissue. [8] Microscopically it shows variable amount of extracellular mucin surrounding the tumor cells. Mucinous carcinoma with invasive areas not surrounded by mucin is considered as a mixed mucinous carcinoma. The prognosis of pure mucinous carcinoma is much better than for mixed one. [9] Large studies done on male breast aspirates have found a very good diagnostic accuracy of FNAC in diagnosing male breast carcinoma, reaching more than 90%. [10],[11]

The main differential diagnoses of mucinous carcinoma are infiltrating lobular carcinoma with signet ring cells and mucocoele-like lesions. Former does not occur in males as males have no lactiferous apparatus.

Surgery remains the cornerstone of MBC treatment. The standard treatment of MBC is modified radical mastectomy combined with axillary lymph node dissection. However some authors suggest that nodal dissection may be unnecessary in pure mucinous carcinoma because of very low incidence of axillary nodal metastasis. [12] Sentinel lymph node biopsy may help to identify the need for axillary dissection. The most important determinants of survival are stage of the disease and lymph node involvement. The use of adjuvant hormonal therapy i.e. Tamoxifen confers a survival advantage in men positive for hormonal receptors. The benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy in MBC is not well established.

MBC seems to have better prognosis as compared to female counterpart. [5] The changes in the male breast may be easier to detect because men have less breast tissue. However the awareness of breast cancer in men is much lower as compared to women, therefore men do not perform regular self examination of breast or talk with their doctor about the disease.

   Conclusion Top

Although pure mucinous carcinoma of the male breast is an extremely rare entity, it remains an important disease which should be recognized and managed timely. Any delay in management can affect the patient's survival. FNAC is a useful tool for diagnosis with a very high sensitivity and specificity but the gold standard is histopathology. More research is needed on MBCs as it is becoming more apparent that it is a different disease than its female counterpart. This recognition will provide better focused treatment strategies and an overall improved survival.

   References Top

1.Paramo JC, Wilson C, Velarde D, Giraldo J, Poppiti RJ, Mesko TW. Pure mucinous carcinoma of the breast: is axillary staging necessary? Ann Surg Oncol 2002;9:161-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Muir D, Kanthan K, Kanthan SC. Male versus female breast cancers. A population - based comparative immunohistochemical analysis. Arch Pathol Lab Med 2003;127:36-41.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Czene K, Bergqvist J, Hall P, Bergh J. How to treat male breast cancer. Breast 2007;2:147-54.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Weiss JR, Moysich KB, Swede H. Epidemiology of male breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2005;14:20-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Nagoo KS, Rohaizak M, Naqiyah I, Shahrun Niza AS. Male breast cancer: experience from a Malaysian tertiary centre. Singapore Med J 2009;50:519-21.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Fentiman IS, Fourquet A, Hotobagyi GN. Male breast cancer. Lancet 2006;367:595-604.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Giordano SH, Buzdar AU, Hortobagyi GN. Breast Cancer in men. Ann Intern Med 2002;137:678-87.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Martinez-Consuegra N, Baquera-Heredia J, Robles-Vidal C, Zumaran- Cuellar O, Ortiz-Hidalgo C. Pure mucinous (colloid) carcinoma of the male breast. An uncommon subtype. Gac Med Mex 2007;143:79-81.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Hammedi F, Trabelsi A, Abdelkrim SB, Yacoub Abid LB, Jomaa W, Bdioui A, et al. Mucinous carcinoma with axillary lymph node metastasis in a male breast: a case report. North Am J Med Sci 2010;2:111-3.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Siddiqui MT, Zakowski MF, Ashfaq R, Ali SZ. Breast masses in males: multi-intitutional experience on fine-needle aspiration. Diagn Cytopathol 2002;26:87-91.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Joshi A, Kapila K, Verma K. Fine needle aspiration cytology in the management of male breast masses. nineteen years of experience. Acta Cytol 1999;43:334-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Peschos D, Tsanou E, Dallas P, Charalabopoulos K, Kanaris C, Batistatou A. Mucinous breast carcinoma presenting as Paget's disease of the nipple in a man: a case report. Diagn Pathol 2008;3:42.  Back to cited text no. 12

Correspondence Address:
Roopak Aggarwal
House no 1640, Sohan Ganj, Clock Tower, Delhi - 110 007
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-9371.80751

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

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