Breast cancer survivor: “Men do not believe it and we detect it late”

Pink month. Pink campaign. Pink ribbon… October is traditionally the month of the fight against breast cancer and, immediately, the association of most of the people is that this disease goes hand in hand with women.

However, breast cancer in men is far from being an isolated or rare event, in fact, it has been on the rise in recent years.

Most men are unaware that they can also suffer from it and it is even more deadly: according to statistics, only 5% manage to survive. Even from January to date, 13 cases of breast cancer have been detected in the country.

At 66, Roy Alfaro, retired educator and current private university professor, tells how he survived breast cancer about eight years ago and invites men to undergo self-examinations, since most come for a medical check-up when there is little to do .

Tell us your story, how did you find out?

“The truth is that I realize it by accident. The problem with us men is that we never check ourselves, sometimes we don’t even have a mirror in the house. I find out basically because I hit the edge of a door and I feel a strange pain, even so, I leave and it passes and I forget. It was not until two months later, also by chance in life, that a friend greets me and I feel the pain again, there were like six months of difference between one pain and another “

This pain alerted Don Roy, who immediately came to check his house: when he touched his chest, he discovered the worst.

“I started to touch myself and felt a ball, and then I got worried. I made an appointment for an oncologist to see me so they could see it and he tells me to get it out. Eight days later I return to remove the threads as we removed the nipple.

Did you think it could be breast cancer at the time? I mean, did you suspect that could be it?

“Never. I thought it was just any pellet, a lipoma or those things you know you have, but I never associated with breast cancer. A man with breast cancer? You never make that association! I really did not know that there was breast cancer for men ”.

When he removed the strings, Alfaro received news that left him cold, that surprised him for the worse and that, in his opinion, would change his life forever.

“When they removed the strings, they told me: sit down, it is not good news, I have to explain to you that it came out malignant and it is breast cancer.

“At the moment you are left in the air: Breast cancer? But how about men?

“They explained to me that I had to remove my chest and part of my armpit and all this. They didn’t know anything about my chances of survival until I had the operation.

“I said: I am not willing to prolong my agony, if I have a chance I will fight for it, otherwise not. But they told me they didn’t know anything ”.

This retired teacher took this on as a challenge, because he wanted to see his sons Roy Alfaro Baker and Marcelo Alfaro succeed.

After overcoming the disease, this professor had to deal with two other types of cancer, gastric and liver, but he managed to overcome all three.

Few testimonies and survivors

What do you think are the main difficulties that a man may encounter when facing breast cancer?

“It was difficult at first. When we talk about breast we associate it with feminine, but, for example, when one goes to a pool or something like that one has a huge scar (Don Roy had a part of his left breast removed) and that makes him very self-conscious.

“I even had problems with the treatment, since they are focused on women. They are hormonal treatments and for men there are not so many options.

“This type of cancer is caused by female hormones. We men have estrogens too, although to a small extent, so when this does not stop, one runs the risk of even castration and that is a fear that one has. So it has to see how the treatment inhibits these hormones, but all treatment has side effects, it damages your bones, liver, etc. ”.

“Even in the process it is also difficult, because I would arrive at the hospital and they would tell me:” Excuse me sir, this is for breast cancer “and they would send me to another place, there I had to explain that I came for the same thing”.

Does this belief that man does not give, make us more careless?

“I did understand something and it is that we men we are very late, we never believe that we can get breast cancer.

“It is like a taboo that men do not give it and I think that, if we manage to do the self-examination like women and have that control, we could avoid this, because at the end of this process, cancer will not it kills, it kills you because you are too late. “

Why do you think there is so much testimony from men with this disease?

“I belong to a breast cancer association and everything is pink, I am the only one that sometimes appears, but it is that men do not accept, and do not give testimonies. It is very complicated by machismo.

“In the end I said if one can raise awareness in at least one man and save his life, that is quite a gain, that is why I have chosen to do interviews and give my testimony.”

Do you think there is a lack of more education for the prevention of this disease in men?

“I criticize that a lot, in fact, that’s how I got into the Pink Ladies and these foundations. In the Heredia mall there was a photo of the fight against breast cancer and I look at it, and I say: “here there is a huge mistake, there is no man. The campaigns do not include men, they are always directed at women ”and it turns out that by chance I had the president behind me.

“She told me that none of them wants and one of my children told her:“ my dad does… ”and well, there I taught her that I have breast cancer and we already coordinated and I started to get involved.

Have you heard of other cases or have you helped other men get ahead with your testimony?

“Basically supportive yes and even many women and men I have provided support and in all types of cancer. The men, the ones I met, unfortunately arrived very late. Of those I met, I am the only survivor. Now I know that there is more, my surgeon told me that I am the number 11 who operated ”.

What advice would you give to another patient suffering from the disease in silence?

“That it is positive, that you are not ashamed and that you continue with faith, hope, and get out … not stay there to be part of that death statistic, continue in the fight, today we feel good and tomorrow not. It is not easy, sometimes you cry, but you depend on a great deal of courage to move on. ”