(HealthDay News) — While survival for men with breast cancer has improved, it hasn’t kept pace with the strides made in treating breast cancer in women, according to new research due to be presented at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held from Dec. 9 to 13 in San Antonio.

Fatima Cardoso, M.D., director of the breast unit at the Champalimaud Cancer Center in Lisbon, Portugal, and colleagues followed 1,822 men with breast cancer. The men were diagnosed between 1990 and 2010 and they were treated at 23 medical centers in nine countries.

The researchers found that only 77 percent of men received endocrine therapy such as tamoxifen for their cancer when it was indicated. They also found that even though 56 percent of the cancers were diagnosed when the tumors were very small, only 4 percent of the men had breast conserving surgery. Most had a mastectomy. Most of the men, 92 percent, had estrogen receptor-positive cancer. In women, 70 percent of breast cancers are estrogen receptor-positive. Far fewer of the men’s cancers were human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 or triple negative, the researchers found. After a follow-up of 5.7 years on 1,046 men, 63 percent were still alive.

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“Although we saw a significant improvement in overall survival for male breast cancer patients over time, the prognosis for men with breast cancer has not been improving as much as for women with the disease,” Cardoso said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. “This is largely because male breast cancer is a rare disease — it accounts for just 1 percent of breast cancers — and we know very little about its biology and how best to treat patients.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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