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Breast Cancer in Men - as Serious as in Women


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. Breast cancer is commonly thought of as a woman's disease. But VOA Carol Pearson has the story of a man who had breast cancer.

Arnaldo Silva is a rugged, hard-working man. He was not concerned about a small lump on his chest. Even his doctor dismissed it as just "fatty tissue," he said.

But the "fatty tissue" kept growing. So Silva got a second opinion. The images and the biopsy were shocking. He had breast cancer.

"Breast cancer in men? Men have cancer? We have no breasts," Silva said. "That's the way I looked it. I have no breasts."

But men do have breast tissue, says New York surgeon Sharon Rosenbaum Smith.

"All men have breast tissue," Dr. Smith said. "All men have the capability of developing a breast cancer."

Men are less at risk for developing the disease. But because so many men assume they cannot get it, their cancer is usually diagnosed at a later stage, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Another reason many men are slow to react is that they are embarrassed.

"You can't talk about it 'cause people go, you got breast cancer? That's a woman's disease.' So you hear that enough times that you say, you know what? Let me just keep quiet'," Silva said.

But keeping quiet can be life threatening both for the patient and his family.

Silva found out he was carrying the BRCA 2 gene that greatly increases the chance of getting breast cancer. He told his 32-year-old daughter, Vanessa. She was screened and also had breast cancer.

"I just kept on going, oh, my goodness, I have cancer'," Vanessa said.

"I'm crying like a baby," her father said. "I was taking blame. I was saying, 'I passed this on to my daughter'."

Within days, both father and daughter had surgery. Then, they started chemotherapy together. "I said no one really understands what I'm going through but my Dad, because he was feeling the same way," Vanessa said. "She would keep me busy and I would keep her busy," Silva added.

They supported each other. "We were the rock stars of the hospital... father and daughter... we never had this before," Silva said.

That was more than a year ago. They are now cancer free. But they are screened every three months to make sure they stay that way.

"This made us closer," Vanessa said. "Now we have this bond because we both had breast cancer. We both have been through it. We both beat it."

Arnaldo Silva has gotten beyond the stigma. He now wants to publicize his story to save other men's lives.

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