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Yes, Men Can Have Breast Cancer
UPDATED: 6:55 PM EDT
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to educate everyone about detection and treatment, encourage fundraising, and celebrate survivors.       

According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States.

A Hixson native, Clarence Willingham, wants to spread the message that breast cancer is a people's disease not a female's disease. He is a strong man and a breast cancer survivor sharing his story to encourage other men to go pink.
 
"I felt a lump on my breast and I kind of figured it was a sist," said Willingham.

Then that lump got a little bigger and a little bigger.  It was March of 2012 and Clarence Willingham was a relatively healthy, working 57-year-old. 

"I was thinking it was something else, hoping it wasn't breast cancer, but in the back of my mind I was thinking that but I was hoping it wasn't," said Willingham.

The urgency about that lump then sky-rocketed.

"The next morning it started to bleed profusely," said Willingham.
 
One trip to the emergency room at Memorial hospital in Hixson and Willingham's life changed forever.

"The doctor looked at it and the first thing she said was you have breast cancer.  Everyone was crying you know and thinking the worst things," said Willingham.

Doctors diagnosed Willingham with stage 4 breast cancer. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation this is the poorest prognosis of breast cancer.

"I went through the whole 9 yards, chemotherapy, went through radiation..." said Willingham.

Through it all, he focused on hope and that he can be beat cancer.

"My wife, the love of my life, she kept me going. We gonna fight it; we gonna beat it," said Willingham.

Months of fighting, bad days, good days, and by August 2012 he could say those coveted words.

"You know right now I am a breast cancer survivor for TWO years now," said Willingham.

Directors with the Susan G. Komen foundation want to stress Willingham is not alone.

"We expect at least 2000 cases to be diagnosed this year in the United States in men," said Karen Edmondson with Komen Chattanooga.

"These women right there - they have been my inspiration, they really brought me in.  They are all women and I am a man so I just want to thank them," said Willingham.

The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a painless lump or thickening in the breast and chest area. Doctors also want to stress any change in the breast or nipple can be a warning sign. Unfortunately men are less likely to report symptoms and therefore usually diagnosed at a later and more deadly stage.

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