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
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.