Mothers can pass along the risk of breast cancer to their daughters. But many forget that a father's family history is just as important.
A new study reports that knowing your father's history could help women get earlier screening and treatment.
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton shared an unlikely and inspiring breast cancer survivor story.
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"We're all sensitized to the emblematic color of breast cancer awareness," Ashton said, "but breast cancer is not always pink."
Mike Story. of Hamburg, N.Y., outside Buffalo, loves working out to Bruce Springsteen. Ashton said Story may look tough, but he melts when he talks about his wife, Kelly.
Mike said, "You get goosebumps, its emotional. I met her when we were kids."
Mike and Kelly's life together raising their daughter, Carly, seemed like a dream until Kelly was diagnosed with breast cancer at 46.
Mike said, "We knew that she probably had a less than five-year survival rate, because of where her breast cancer was in her body."
Mike supported the love of his life each step of her two-year struggle, which ended just before Kelly's 50th birthday.
Mike said, "And one thing that I'll take with me to my grave, hopefully in another 30, 40 years, was what my wife told me when she was on her bed dying. 'You need to live your life no matter what gets thrown your way."'
Mike never could have imagined what was in store for him next, just as he and Carly were beginning to put the pieces of their life back together.
Mike said, "I was working out one day and I got out of the shower and I felt a lump in my chest, simple as that. And I checked the other side of my chest, no lump."
In the cruelest twist of fate, less than a year after losing Kelly, Mike was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer that had spread to his bones.
Carly told CBS News, "Never in a million years would I ever have imagined that my dad would have breast cancer."
Mike said, "I've never had any pain or discomfort there."
Breast cancer in men is relatively rare, accounting for less than one percent of all cases. The most common symptom? A firm, painless lump found just below the nipple.
Mike went to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. to be treated by the same oncologist, Dr. Tracey O'Connor, who treated his beloved Kelly. Dr. Stephen Edge was the surgeon for Mike's wife at the institute.
Now, it's Carly's turn to support her dad, just as Mike did for Kelly, and with her mother's same sense of humor.
Carly said, "She's probably up there like, 'You've got to be kidding me. Cut these two a break."1
Ashton said Mike will tell you his unlikely journey is an opportunity to save lives.
He said, "Listen, breast cancer is all about women, but you know what. It affects men, too."
Ashton added on "The Early Show" that Mike is feeling great and he's optimistic that his medications are controlling his cancer. Even though he's diagnosed with stage four cancer, she said he's determined not to be a statistic. His main goal is to help save just one life by letting men know that it's not just women -- men can also have breast cancer.
So what puts men at risk for breast cancer?
Ashton told "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez, "The same thing that puts women at risk, the first is family history. But then, age. We know both men and women as we get older the rate and risk of breast cancer, especially in men, goes up. Obesity, high alcohol intake, all of these things, some in our control to change some of them are not."
Rodriguez said, "Thank goodness Mike found that lump because most men may not be as vigilant."
Ashton said, "Right. Again, most of the time, it is just not on their radar. So many men don't even realize they can get breast cancer, too. And while it is much less common, they need to be aware of the signs and symptoms. The most common is what Mike had, a lump or a swelling in the breast. You can have a dimpling in the skin, a little dimple there or some redness or scaling, or sometimes the nipple actually retracts or there can be liquid, some nipple discharge. All should be red flags to men to see their doctor immediately."
To lower your risk, Ashton recommends keeping your weight down and limiting alcohol intake.
As for the genetic link, if a father has breast cancer, Ashton said, the risk of a child getting breast cancer is almost doubled.
"We need to remember that the BRCA mutation, that genetic testing that a lot of women are aware of, if men have that same history in their family of a first-degree relative with breast or ovarian cancer, they, too, should be tested, because the risk applies to them, as well as their children."
Rodriguez said, "If (Carly) wasn't adopted, the biological child of this couple, I can't imagine how much her risk would be."
Ashton said, "It would put her at very high risk. Knowing our family history is so important."
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