I was happy to see Jeff Taylor’s article in Qnotes exploring breast cancer risk and the transgender community. He makes an important point that we all, cis and trans men and women, have breast tissue which extends to the clavicles (collar bones) and into the axillae (underarms) and is retained after mastectomies in cis women and chest reconstructions in transmen.
During ten years as a general surgeon I coordinated the surgeries and oncological care for cis women with breast cancer, as well as 3 cis men with the disease. Now, as a cosmetic surgeon performing “Top Surgeries” for transmen and transwomen, I am often the first physician who discusses transgender breast cancer screening with my clients. This is likely because, as Mr. Taylor notes, there are no guidelines for their primary care physicians to follow.
Given the current lack of research, I give my patients the following recommendations based on my own experience and our current knowledge of this disease:
- Transmen who have not had chest reconstruction, and transwomen on HRT should follow the same guidelines for breast cancer screening as cis women. These guidelines are evolving; but basically get your first mammogram at 40-50 years old and then annually. This may be continued annually, or reduced to every other year, after the age of 55.
- Transwomen on HRT whose anatomy makes mammograms difficult should follow the guidelines above substituting MRIs for mammograms.
- Transmen who have had chest reconstruction, cis men, and transwomen who are not on HRT, should have an annual physical exam by a medical professional which includes palpation (careful feeling) of the chest and underarms beginning at 40-50 years old. A CT or MRI should be obtained if, on self-exam or professional physical exam, any lumps, tenderness, nipple discharge, or other abnormalities are found. If there is a lump on palpation, CT, or MRI it should be further investigated by a needle or excisional biopsy.
The original article can be read here: Qnotes Breast Cancer Article. As always, I am happy to answer patient questions about this or other surgical issues by e-mail or in consultation at our private office and surgery center in South End Charlotte.