Men who confirm they have the BRCA genes can not only alert their daughters of their increased risk, they may also catch signs of breast cancer earlier in themselves.
Dr. Swati Kulkarni, assistant professor of surgery at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, said men often come into her clinic with much more advanced cases of breast cancer than women.
"The biggest issue for men is they're diagnosed later because they're not screened," said Kulkarni, who added that men with breast cancer are much more likely to get a mastectomy because they have less tissue to remove.
However, there are more similarities between men and women with breast cancer once the cancer is diagnosed. Doctors say the course of treatment for each type of cancer is typically the same, and once a man is diagnosed with a BRCA gene they typically need to be screened with mammograms and exams as frequently as women, according to Smith.
"If men get a mutated gene, then they really need to be aware of it because they have an increased risk of early prostate cancer," added Smith.
Although Mike Welsh had family members with breast cancer, the thought never crossed his mind that he might be at risk until his wife was diagnosed.
"You see the advertisements about women; men are never mentioned," he said.
Brooks, who typically treats two men with breast cancer a year, agreed about the lack of information.
"I think men are very ignorant of the fact that they could get male breast cancer. There's all sorts of stigma. ... There's all sorts of taboos," he said.
As for the Welshes, they decided to raise awareness in their own community and beyond.
"I'm not going to hide it under a bush. I have sweatshirts that say I'm a breast cancer survivor," said Barbara Welsh. "I told my husband, 'You need to get a shirt, too.'"
"If we don't deal with this with humor and upbeat, the depression will kill you," he said.
To learn more about male breast cancer, visit the American Cancer Society
The Hamilton Journal News first broke the story.