When we speak of breast cancer, it’s almost always in reference to a woman’s battle against the disease. However, a small percent of men also get inflicted with this devastating condition. In a series of compelling documentary photographs by Lisbon-based Jose Ferreira, we get to picture the present situation concerning men’s breast cancer. The documentary portraits in black and white tell a powerful story on their own. But to create a clearer picture and raise better awareness, it helps to have some expert opinion on something as serious but rarely discussed as men’s breast cancer. Paired with Jose’s photography is an equally eye-opening write-up by Dr. Fatima Cardoso, the Breast Cancer Unit Director of Champalimaud Medical Center and the Head of the International Program for Men’s Breast Cancer.
Probably unheard of to some, breast cancer can also affect men, albeit a smaller population compared to women. Dr. Cardoso tells us that because the cases are rare — with only 1% of every cancer that afflicts men and only 1% of total breast cancer cases — there’s a lack of knowledge about men’s breast cancer and how to treat it. Still, it’s not the only factor tied to the lack of information about such cases.
“But rarity isn’t the only culprit regarding the lack of knowledge about men’s breast cancer,” Dr. Cardoso wrote. “The fact that this is a disease typically associated to the female gender and to a human organ traditionally more important in women substantially contributes to some taboos, feelings of discredit and shame, which inevitably lead to late diagnoses.”
To some extent, Jose’s documentary work is also an example of thought-provoking gender role reversals. Men are usually depicted as powerful figures. And yet, the series shows them in such a vulnerable position. The male form replaces the female figure, but the expressions and the stories tell of the same harrowing story of the battle against cancer and the road to recovery.
The relevance of Jose’s work is best explained by Dr. Cardoso below:
“The emotional and psychological consequences of the disease and its treatment are as relevant in men as in women. Concerns regarding the loss of manhood, communication difficulties with the spouse and secondary effects of hormone therapy (the main treatment for these tumors) are very frequent and complex problems.
“Besides scientific advancements, it is urgent to give voice to these men, to help them break taboos and understand their needs, without prejudice or preconceptions. This is the main goal of this project. Stories told in first person, followed by the powerful message expressed by photography.”