Growing Awareness of Breast Cancer Being Diagnosed in Men

What to Know

  • There are a small number of cases as only one in a thousand men will be diagnosed with it - but it’s just as harmful and even deadly.

Breast cancer is a disease that mainly happens to women - but many people do not realize men can get breast cancer as well. There are a small number of cases as only one in a thousand men will be diagnosed with it.

But it’s just as harmful and even deadly if gone undetected.

“To me, it was a woman’s disease,” said Sam Rivera of Hollywood. “I never knew a man could get breast cancer.”

But the truth is, men can get breast cancer just like women. Rivera is part of the less than one percent of men diagnosed with the disease. He was only 17 years old when he was diagnosed in 1971 and had just joined the Army, about to serve in the Vietnam War.

“[During] my last physical, my shots before I went overseas, the doctor noticed a bloody discharge on my t-shirt,” said the now 65-year-old Rivera. “I thought it was because I was working out. At that time, I had a six-pack. I was really, really built. [The doctor] says, ‘No, no, that’s not it.”

Sam had been diagnosed with breast cancer and he got the mass removed. But he dealt with depression for many years after.

“I have to be honest with you, I felt suicidal for a while,” said Rivera. “I think about it and I still get a little emotional because it was a hardest time in my life to go through it.”

Years later, Rivera met his future wife Rebecca - who also had breast cancer. Together, they shared their stories and even got married.

But Rebecca passed away in 2014 from the cancer. Sam says having someone to talk to before she passed helped get him though those tough times.

There are support groups for men with breast cancer, like the Male Breast Cancer Coalition - a non-profit advocacy organization for men with breast cancer, giving them an outlet to share their story with other men in similar situations.

“To them, that’s something that they conceal,” said Vicki Hallum of Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. “So, to have a support group where they can come in and openly talk about it to other men who also have breast cancer really opens the door for them.”

Even Mathew Knowles, the father of legendary singer Beyoncé, recently revealed he is a breast cancer survivor.

“It’s not a shame to have breast cancer,” said Rivera. “It’s a horrible thing, but if checked early chances of survival are great.”

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