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Father Gets Breast Cancer Two Years After Daughter

7:24 AM, May 19, 2011   |    comments
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KSDK) - Over the years, we've told hundreds of stories of how women have battled breast cancer. But the disease also affects men.

It's a diagnosis Norman Rogers of Marion, Illinois, never considered, even as he helped his own daughter through her breast cancer treatment.

"Being a man I didn't think I could get it," says Norman Rogers, a breast cancer patient.

Like most men, 70-year-old Rogers thought his involvement with breast cancer meant supporting his daughter Dianne Cavender. She was diagnosed in September 2006 and her father took her to each and every appointment with the breast surgeon and oncologist.

Then in December 2008, Norman found a suspicious spot in his own breast. It turned out to be breast cancer.

"I knew I had a problem months before" says Rogers. "But then again, being a man, you realize you've got a knot or a hard spot you think that's nothing, it's to be expected."

"He was my cheerleader and now I'm his cheerleader," says Dianne Cavender, a breast cancer patient.

Cavender says hearing her father's diagnosis was heartbreaking.

Rogers decided to seek treatment from all of the doctors who had cared for his daughter. The two say it brought them even closer, and even sparked a few laughs along the way.

"It was very strange going to appointments and things then because I was like am I the one who's supposed to be getting on the table? And he's the one getting on the table and I'm the one sitting in the chair," says Cavender.

The rate of breast cancer in men is rising: 1,800 men alone last year diagnosed with the disease and 20 to 30 percent of them will have some kind of genetic cause.

"Whenever a man is diagnosed with breast cancer we certainly want to investigate that more closely," says Dr. Julie Margenthaler, a Siteman Cancer Center breast surgeon.

Treatment for men with breast cancer mirrors treatment in women. It can include mastectomy, chemo and radiation. And the diagnosis almost always comes as a surprise.

"Men themselves can get breast cancer," says Dr. Margenthaler. "It's obviously much less common but about 1 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are in men."

Because Rogers' breast cancer was found in a later stage, his treatment was more aggressive; another consequence of the false belief that men can't get breast cancer.

"If I have anything to say to the men who might be watching," says Rogers, "it would be if you think you have anything that might be wrong, don't delay."