Every year, my Facebook inbox starts overflowing with for-women-only messages.
I had nearly forgotten this yearly ritual when I recently opened my Facebook page to a new battle cry for women. The message read:
“Without replying to this message, put a heart on your wall; no comment, just a heart. Next, send this message to your women friends, only the women. Then post a heart on the wall of the person who sent you this message. If anyone asks why you have so many hearts on your wall, don’t tell them. This is only for women, because this week is breast cancer research week. One small act of solidarity among women. Thank you.”
This strategy of posting ambiguous status updates started in Jan. 2010. Women were encouraged to post single-word statuses on their walls – the color of their bras. This unusual stream of colors sent men in droves to Yahoo! Answers trying to understand why their girlfriends posted new colors each day.
In Oct. 2010, women were encouraged to post status updates about where they like it – on the coffee table, in the car, on the floor, and other places. Men thought their lady friends had all become sex-crazed over-sharers, but women were actually posting where they like to put down their purses when they get home. Pink bracelets with the quote “I like it on the floor” were sold as donations going to breast cancer research.
Breast cancer is a big deal. The nonprofit website breastcancer.org, reported that one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
Here’s what else is a big deal: men also get breast cancer, but they are often excluded from the October breast cancer awareness month festivities – especially on Facebook.
Messages that say, “This is for women only! Don’t tell the men!” make me wonder why male breast cancer doesn’t receive higher recognition in the month of breast cancer awareness. Men need to be aware that they are susceptible to breast cancer. An increased state of awareness for male breast cancer during October would cause men to look at the facts pertaining to their disease and illuminate the need for male breast cancer surveillance.
Granted, the chances of men getting breast cancer in their lifetimes are much smaller; while all men have breast tissue just like women, high levels of testosterone during puberty stops men from developing breasts, according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
However, men are affected by breast cancer in higher numbers than most people realize. According to breastcancer.org, about 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in U.S. men in 2011. A man’s risk of getting breast cancer is one in 1,000, based on the same statistics.
Komen for the Cure estimates that by the end of 2012, male breast cancer diagnoses will increase to 2,190 and over 400 male breast cancer related deaths will occur.
While these numbers seem small, the effect of unawareness for male breast cancer is huge. According to Komen for the Cure, men are less likely to report symptoms – making a likelihood of early detection slim. Like women, the risk of getting breast cancer increases with age. Detection at an early stage for men is crucial to prevent further spreading and damage. The National Cancer Institute reported that men and women have about the same survival rate when their cancer stage (stages I through IV) is the same upon diagnosis.
Men must take the opportunity to self-examine their chest for lumps. If anything unusual is noticed, they should seek medical attention immediately to catch any early indications of cancer.
Marvel Comics produced eight comic book covers and an advertorial this month in conjunction with Komen for the Cure, in both print and online publications to raise awareness for male breast cancer.
Perhaps this real-world example of societal justice from fantasy characters will draw attention to a commonly overlooked disease.
While on Facebook people may not show the men the same kind of care and attention, there are many resources for male breast cancer, including the National Cancer Institute, Komen for the Cure, and breastcancer.org.