NEW YORK (AP) – Former Massachusetts Sen. Edward Brooke, who became the first black U.S. senator since Reconstruction, is speaking out on behalf of men who suffer from breast cancer.

Brooke, 83, who was diagnosed with the disease in September, is encouraging men to perform self-examinations and advocating that insurance companies cover male mammograms.

“I know that my talking may be helpful to other men who are living their lives right now, unaware that they have this disease,” Brooke said in an interview published in The New York Times on Tuesday.

He said his wife, Anne, discovered a lump on the right side of his chest. A survivor of the disease herself, she urged him to consult with a doctor. He underwent a double mastectomy and is currently free of the cancer.

Breast cancer is rare in men, but a higher percentage men die of the disease because it is usually discovered at a later stage.

“Anne probably saved my life,” said Brooke. “If she hadn’t looked at that lump, I never would have done anything about it.”

Researchers believe that 1,500 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and roughly 400 of them will die of it. The disease is more likely in men older than 50 and black men are more likely than white men to succumb to it.

Brooke was elected as a Republican to the Senate from Massachusetts in 1966 and served until losing a re-election bid in 1978. After practicing law, he retired in 1985 and lives in Virginia.

AP-ES-06-10-03 0536EDT

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