Mammograms are pretty commonly sought by women, especially once they hit 40. But men, who represent 1 percent of all breast cancer cases, are much less likely to get mammograms, in part due to stigma. Breast cancer kills some 40,000 women and about 450 men in the United States each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A new study of images of 57 men with breast cancer found male mammograms and sonograms can be useful in making diagnoses.

"The findings show that breast cancer in men most commonly presents itself as a mass with an irregular shape and spiculated (spiky or pointy) margins that may or may not have calcifications," said Dr. Wei Tse Yang of the University of Texas's cancer research center.

The cancer had spread to the armpit in 47 percent of the men in the study. One goal of mammograms is to catch cancer early and prevent its spread.

"A large number of men with breast cancer do not undergo imaging prior to treatment either because mammography is not heavily advertised in the male community or because men also may be socially conscious about that part of their anatomy," Yang said. "Almost 100 percent of men with breast cancer have a lump they can feel. Men should consult their physician and seek treatment as early as possible when a new mass presents itself in the breast."

Mammography and sonography would help primary care physicians make quicker and better diagnoses and also allow screening of the opposite breast, Yang said.

This study is detailed in the December issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.