“I felt terrible guilt for passing along this gene to my daughter and possibly to my grandchildren,” says male breast cancer survivor Arnaldo Silva

male breast cancer
Father and daughter Arnaldo and Vanessa Silva

Arnaldo and Vanessa Silva share a close father and daughter bond. They share lunch dates and outings – but unfortunately, they both share something else as well: breast cancer.

“As a man, it’s the last thing that you expect to hear you have when you go to the doctor,” Arnaldo, 67, a retired stationary fireman, tells People magazine, “but I’m proof that it happens. This year alone, 3,000 men will be diagnosed and 400 will die, which I find unacceptable.”

Arnaldo, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in January 2007 after he found a lump beneath his right nipple while showering, is grateful today that he saw a doctor and had a biopsy — not only because it saved his life, but his daughter’s as well. 

Through genetic testing, the father from New Jersey, learned after his cancer diagnosis that he carried the BRCA2 gene mutation, and urged all four of his children to be tested 10 years ago.

Vanessa, now 42, and her younger brother, Arnaldo III, 38, both tested positive for the gene, and for Vanessa, there was more bad news: A mammogram in May 2007 revealed that she also had breast cancer.

male breast cancer
The father and daughter duo take part in lots of cancer campaigning

“Essentially, my dad saved my life,” she says, “because after I opted for a bilateral mastectomy, they found it was worse than they thought. It was very aggressive, and if not for my dad’s diagnosis, I might not be here today.”

She and her dad sought treatment together, supporting each other after surgery to remove their breasts, and during chemotherapy, when they lost all of their hair. 

“I felt terrible guilt for passing along this gene to my daughter and possibly to my grandchildren,” says Arnaldo. “But I’m grateful that it was diagnosed in Vanessa when it was. She’s become my best friend. She makes sure that I keep all of my appointments, and we comfort each other. Fighting cancer brought us even closer together.”

As cancer survivors, the father and daughter now regularly speak together at conferences and male breast cancer awareness events, hoping to convince men to be examined for lumps at their annual physicals.