Breast Cancer in Men

Adam Walker (00:00):
This program has been made possible through the support of an independent grant from Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. From Susan G Komen. This is real pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room. 16 year old, Isabel Rosario is dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer and that it affects men too. Her grandfather Leandro Montalvo was diagnosed in 2019 and it came as a shock to their family. Since Leandro’s diagnosis, Isabel has worked to educate and create awareness around breast cancer in men. She has been a girl scout for 11 years and her Gold Award, the highest recognition a girl scout can earn is, The 1% a Human Race Breast Cancer Awareness Project. She created a ribbon that is 1% blue, 99% pink. Isabelle is also working with the Puerto Rican government to get an official day in October recognized as male breast cancer awareness day. Leandro started treatment in December of 2019. It’s included chemotherapy, a right breast mastectomy and radiotherapy. “My grandfather is a warrior and a survivor,” Isabel said. Isabel, welcome to the show.

Isabel Rosario (01:19):
Thank you so much for having you today.

Adam Walker (01:21):
So Isabel, a couple of quick things. Number one, you’re amazing. You’re doing, I mean, just achieving what you did in girl Scouts is phenomenal creating this whole project around this is, is just, just phenomenal and your energy and your passion for educating people about this issue is just, it’s just really, really wonderful. So thank you for the work that you’re doing. So listen, let’s just dive right in. Start by telling me what is the 1% awareness project?

Isabel Rosario (01:50):
My family were shocked when my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and even more, when we learned it was breast cancer, you know, we’re like, wait, isn’t this a woman’s exclusive disease, but like, no, it turns out men can get breast cancer too. So when I started reflecting, um, I realized that breast cancer campaigns are directed to women the most and that the awareness women is all pink, which is the color most associated with women. And so my project, the 1% of women raised breast cancer awareness was born. This is, as you mentioned, my Girl Scout Gold Award, which is the highest recognition I created the 99% pink and 1% blue ribbon representing the real statistics that say 1% of the breast cancer diagnosed cases are in men and that’s equal to thousands of lives. So this way our subconscious can be aware that men can get breast cancer too. So I created this project and I tried to create awareness of breast cancer focusing on that 1%, but always including the 99% of women.

Adam Walker (02:57):
So I just want to tell you this is so clever. Uh, I, I don’t think I ever would have thought of that. Like if you had said, uh, 1% of, of men get breast cancer, I would’ve never thought let’s make a ribbon. That’s 1% blue and 99% pink. That’s just really, really smart. I love that. I love that image. It’s so great. You mentioned a couple of statistics a minute ago, and I know you’ve done a lot of research. What are the most important, what’s the most important message that you want to tell people about breast cancer?

Isabel Rosario (03:29):
Well, the main root of many breast cancers is not known. So there is not a way to completely avoid them, but I have found some things that you can do to greatly reduce the risk of having breast cancer, like having a healthy diet, like being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. So no matter our view, a woman or a man, if you feel a lump or any unusual shapes, your body take action, go to the doctor because early detection saves lives. Many men when they feel a lump or anything, unusual changes in their breasts, they often ignore it and get diagnosed at a later stage. Others feel ashamed and detecting breast cancer early. It’s a huge factor on the road to recovery. That’s why I want to create some awareness that we all have to pay attention to our bodies, to any unusual change and have routine checks by doctors.

Adam Walker (04:21):
All right. So, so right now you’re, you’re a student you’re in Girl Scouts in it as if you’re not busy enough, you’re also working with the Puerto Rican government to get an official male breast cancer awareness day created. How’s that going?

Isabel Rosario (04:36):
Yeah, well, it’s going pretty great. Honestly, it started on January 28th. So anyone from this year, 2021, where my project to declare, the second Friday of October as the male breast cancer awareness day here in Puerto Rico was signed by the Senate President. Then after a positive report by the department of health and the department of health, of state, my bill went to vote by the Senate and it was approved. So now it’s out of revelation on the house of representatives. I have an appointment with them next month, and then it’s going to the Governor to become an official law and will soon male breast cancer will have it’s day here in Puerto Rico, which is key to raise awareness about the importance of early detection in men. Um, the treatments of fighting and support for patients and survivors.

Adam Walker (05:26):
Wow. That is, that is absolutely phenomenal. I’m so impressed. Uh, speaking of impressed, I’m really excited that we’ve got your grandfather on with us as well. And I I’ll tell you right now, I can see the pride on his face as you’re talking about this. And so, so what I’m going to ask you is tell me a little bit about your grandfather.

Isabel Rosario (05:47):
My grandfather, he’s a worrier and he’s a survivor. I remember, um, that a few days after his first chemotherapy, he woke up and he realized that his pillow was full of his hair. And when he took a bath more than half a bed fell to the bathtub and he said, I am stronger than cancer. My grandfather, um, he’s the one who picks me up some school. He’s the one who’s been giving me driving lessons. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to swim. You know, I have the privilege to have all of my four grandparents alive along with my parents and my brother who always support me.

Adam Walker (06:26):
Wow. That’s that is fantastic. It sounds like you’ve got an amazing family. And what does your grandfather think of your project and all the work that you do?

Isabel Rosario (06:35):
Well, he’s very proud of me always asking me how the project is going. He is always reading the posts on social media. Um, he’s 77, but you know, he learned how to use Instagram and Facebook so he could follow my projects.

Adam Walker (06:51):
Wow. That is some serious dedication. I love that. Okay. Sounds like my kind of guy. Well, and so, so talk a little bit about how your grandfather’s diagnosis has affected your family. Has it helped you to realize anything or changed any of your habits?

Isabel Rosario (07:07):
Well, yeah. Um, it helped us realize that men can get breast cancer too. All I can mention 1% of all diagnosed breast cancer cases, are men. And that may seem like little, but that’s equal to thousands of lives. It could be your relative, your dad, your brother, cousin, you never know. And when a family member gets cancer, they’re not alone. The battle belongs to everyone. So it started with the breast cancer diagnosis with my grandfather, it’s turned into a life project for me and for my family to advocate, to create awareness. It’s been a scary time, but we’ve learned to turn those skin feelings into courage and forward.

Adam Walker (07:47):
I love that. I’ll turn it into courage and move forward. That’s that’s really amazing. Um, okay. So now I want to ask you a few questions and I’ll just ask you to respond in Spanish. And I will, I will, again, confess that I probably will not follow what you say, but that’s okay. And then when you stop, I’ll ask another question. So, does that sound okay? Okay. All right. So Isabel, why don’t you tell us about your grandfather? Uh, but in Spanish this time.

Adam Walker (11:56):
Isabel. Uh, your, your energy, your passion is infectious. Uh, we’re inspired by the work that you’re doing. Thank you for taking your time to do such important work and the Andro. Thank you as well for joining us on the show.

Isabel Rosario (12:10):
Thank you for having me today and giving me this opportunity to continue spreading the message and sharing our stories.

Adam Walker (12:22):
Thanks for listening to real pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen for more episodes, visit real for more on breast cancer. Visit Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @ajwalker or on my blog. This program has been made possible through the support of an independent grant from Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.