By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
MANY people are not aware that men can develop breast cancer considering it is commonly found in women. The symbol for breast cancer is a pink ribbon, associated with women, and the many events promoting awareness, such as marathons where women run for the cure, further the association. But the truth is, men are not exempted from the disease.
Last Saturday, the Nassau-based Sister Sister Breast Cancer Group hosted its 9th annual prayer breakfast in honour of promoting awareness of breast cancer in men.
The event, “Putting Blue in the Pink”, gathered many Bahamians at the Sheraton Resort to listen to a presentation given by Bahamian breast cancer survivor, Valentino Hart Sr.
Andrea Sweeting, Sister Sister president, called the prayer breakfast “revolutionary” because it opened the eyes of many to the myths about men and breast cancer.
Ms Sweeting said she thought it was commendable for Mr Hart to share his story because men are not usually willing to talk about anything, much less share it. She applauded Mr Hart, who travelled from Tampa, Florida where he resides, to speak at the event.
Mr Hart told Tribune Health: “I received a lot of positive feedback at the event. Persons were very excited and encouraged that I was able to share my testimony because there are persons going through cancer right now and they need to hear that word.”
“The word I shared was not for me, it was for other people that were going through cancer. People were appreciative that I came forward and I spoke out. I also spoke to a few people that wanted to encourage their husbands, brothers and uncles to use me as an example. It was overwhelming and at the same time it was humbling,” said Mr Hart.
“When I discovered a lump in my breast in 2010, I didn’t think I had breast cancer, but I did hear about it in the past about men having breast cancer. I knew that what was on my chest was not normal. With me, if something is wrong I am going to go to the doctor and that is what most men don’t like to do. I want to encourage men to go to the doctor if they find lumps in their breast area because we are susceptible to breast cancer,” he said.
“ We don’t go because we think it is a woman’s disease and by the time we get there it has already metastasised throughout the whole body. So they don’t know exactly where it started,” said Mr Hart. After months of chemotherapy and treatment, Mr Hart found out he was cancer free in January 2011.
Ms Sweeting challenged the men of the Bahamas to not just think about breast cancer “as a woman’s thing, but a brother-sister thing”.
“We want persons to realise that if you have a strong family history for breast cancer you are at high risk. Therefore, you should always do everything possible to ensure your best health. If you find a doctor who is not actually willing to assist you in that aspect, then you should find another one. Allow them to know your family history; if cancer runs in your family, then the decision can be made about what care you should now be taking,” said Ms Sweeting.
According to the Mayo Clinic, male breast cancer is most common in older men, though male breast cancer can occur at any age. The organisation’s website states that men diagnosed with male breast cancer at an early stage have a good chance of positive treatment.
“Still, many men delay seeing their doctors if they notice unusual signs or symptoms, such as a breast lump. For this reason, many male breast cancers are diagnosed when the disease is more advanced,” the website stated.
See more of Valentino Hart’s story in the Tribune upcoming Breast Cancer Supplement on October 2.