In the last couple of decades, the campaign for breast cancer awareness has informed many about the disease and, undoubtedly, has saved many lives. Even NFL players wear pink in honor of breast cancer awareness month throughout the month of October. When I think of October, I no longer think of Halloween first, because breast cancer awareness has taken the mantle.
At the age of 15, I became very aware of breast cancer and its ability to turn one’s life completely upside down. My mother was diagnosed with a very aggressive type of breast cancer, and overnight our lives changed permanently. Over the next four years, my mother fought the disease relentlessly through numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. She also became very active in many breast cancer organizations, most noticeably “Sisters By Choice.” It was through these organizations that I became more knowledgeable about the disease and those it affects, but learning one fact in particular amended how I perceived breast cancer forever: Men can also contract breast cancer.
In one instant, everything changed. As I watched a man speak to his experience battling breast cancer at a benefit banquet, I was immediately confronted with my own vulnerability. This disease was no longer something that could only affect my mother, aunts, sisters and female friends; now I had to worry about contracting it too. I took a second to wrap my head around what I had just learned, and begin to look around the room and realize I was not the only male struggling with this realization. Most of the men present looked as if they just found out Santa is not real, and everything they had ever been told about breast cancer was a lie. How could breast cancer be a danger to men?
Most of us have family, friends or someone close that has been, or is currently affected by breast cancer. Take a second to think about some of the people in your life that have battled this disease. How many of them were men? If you are anything like I was sitting at that banquet, you may not know a single one, but it does not change the fact that men with breast cancer exist.
Still, with all of the progress made in breast cancer awareness, the message that it affects men too is still not widely circulated. Women are still the only ones getting the message to protect themselves. I look forward to the day when we all realize we are in this together.
Here are some tips to reduce one’s chance of contracting breast cancer and increase the chance of early detection:
Treat your body well
Maintain a healthy diet, and lose any excessive weight
Avoid tobacco products
Limit consumption of alcohol
Learn the symptoms and signs of breast cancer
Lumps in the breast
Change in breast appearance (enlarged pores, orange peel appearance, change in size, change in color, etc.)
Unusual discharge of the nipple
Perform breast exams
Monthly self breast exams
Clinical breast exams by physician if anything seems unusual
Never be afraid to consult a doctor if something does not feel right concerning your body.
Whether man or woman, it’s time to check your breasts.