Wednesday, October 20, 2010


October. The month of Halloween costumes followed by Halloween cavities. More importantly, however, it's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

In honor of this, I wanted to do some research about screening/prevention in order to educate myself as well as promote awareness. I definitely learned a lot. For example, I had never heard of male breast cancer before. The third week of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October is dedicated to raising awareness for male breast cancer. Male breast cancer is much more rare, accounting for 1% of all breast cancers. Like with other cancers, it is unknown if the cause is mainly environmental or genetic.

The symptoms of breast cancer in both men and women are very similar. Some things to look for to aid in early detection are:
  • Any new, hard lump or thickening in any part of the breast
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Swelling, redness or warmth that does not go away
  • Pain in one spot (for women: that does not vary with your monthly cycle)
  • Pulling in of the nipple
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly and appears only in one breast
  • An itchy, sore or scaling area on one nipple
Also, it is suggested that women obtain regular mammography screening starting at the age of 40, although if there is a history of breast cancer in the family this should be done earlier.

From a feminist standpoint, it is great to see how much media attention and support is behind something that is seen as women's cause (even though I do think there needs to be more awareness about male breast cancer). It definitely should be taken seriously as it is the "most common cancer in women in the US, aside from skin cancer". Based on current rates, 12.2 percent of women born in the United States today will develop breast cancer at some time in their lives. On a more positive note, this is a cause that brings women together.

I've participated in the Run/Walk for Breast Cancer in San Diego and one thing that really struck me was the sense of solidarity among the women. One of the criticisms often articulated (and rightly so) in this class is that there is a distinct lack of sisterhood among women. I think the breast cancer awareness movement is really inspirational in that it brings women together and I hope to see this kind of attitude permeate other aspects of life as well.

5 comments:

Chez Marta said...

You define breast cancer as a Women's Issue. While this is true in the essentialist sense (as mostly a disease affecting only women), breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers affect everyone regardless of gender. Children lose mothers, husbands lose wifes. We lose sisters, grannies, inspiring characters. One of the points in third-wave feminism, the way I see it, is the realization that most men are affected by the patriarchy's oppression of the "weaker" sex. They suffer when research is not prioritized to fight those very aggressive cancers that kill their partners. They suffer, too, when their wifes are given menial tasks, less pay, unpaid maternity leave, and the like. Men are parts of our families (for better or worse) and are affected by the lack of affordable child-care, the lackluster quality of public elementary education, by bosses sexually harassing their spouse... Let's not forget: our men should be with us in this fight!

Betty said...

Great post! A friend of mine who's somewhat of a hypochondriac was actually diagnosed with breast cancer a couple years back and luckily is recovering perfectly now. I've since stopped making fun of her for being a hypochondriac, for obvious reasons.

I think it's especially important to stress that while health concerns and taking care of one's health w/regular checkups are a universal upkeep, it's especially notable for women when taking into consideration all the issues that solely pertain to feminist theories and health - STDs, health-related problems due to domestic violence or extreme male dominance, and the deep-seated implications that come with primarily female diseases that further mark us as "inferior."

Yazzyjazzy said...

I agree that this movement is extremely inspirational. What is interesting is that not only is there solidarity among women in finding a cure, but the men have really joined in too! Men that have lost mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, etc. fully support the fight against breast cancer and perhaps in tragedy we are finding a commonality that will unite us.

I had a cousin that recently died from breast cancer. She left behind two daughters, her husband, and many other close family members. We miss her very much, she was really taken too soon. It always means a lot to me when people take the time to try to prevent this from happening to other families, so I thank you for your post.

Bijorn Turock said...

I have to agree with Marta here. Under the common law, the unity of marriage created one single and inseparable entity, which I think, really captures some of the thing Marta is saying—anything that affects one spouse essentially affects the other as well. Losing a wife or husband as a result of any illness, whether its breast cancer or prostate cancer, forever takes away an important part from the family unit. As someone who has been raised in a single parent household, I can assure you the passing of one parent really places a lot of pressure on the surviving spouse. No longer can they depend on the helping hand that was there to help them pack lunches, go to PTA meetings, take kids to practice, pay the bills at the end of the week, or enjoy the company of their partner. Therefore it seems, as Marta has already mentioned, that we should prioritize finding a cure for diseases that can affect either spouse no matter how likely it is to affect them.

N.P. said...

Thank you for this post. I have run the Breast Cancer 5K for the past 3 years, and it is truly the most inspiring thing to be a part of!

As a side note, it is essential that women make sure to test themselves. As a personal story, my aunt failed to check herself for breast cancer, and finally at the point that it had spread to her bones - the doctors were finally able to determine that it was breast cancer in its final stages. Through her illness my aunt was vibrant, but this wasn't an easy struggle.

Please, for yourselves and for others, make sure to get yourself tested or do a self-examine. We still may not have drugs to stop this disease, but we do have each other - and a whole lot of women who offer their support.