Updated: Oct 18, 2022
By Rod Ritchie
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) and that’s when breast cancer charities go all out to raise funds. Naturally, these groups are particularly keen to raise both funds and “awareness.” Obviously, money raised for research is a good thing, even if these projects are often duplicated. However, the old adage of having to spend a buck to make a buck is true, and because of the plethora of charities, more often than not, half or more of the funds raised are spent on marketing and publicity. This means that, so often, our donations are only a half as effective as they should be. And my Stage IV sisters all tell me that October for them is often a crass and derogatory exercise. As well, many companies take advantage of the month to “pinkwash” products and only offer a small part of the profits as a donation to a breast cancer charity. Who needs a pink excavator?
Awareness? Yes please, make us all aware about breast cancer. It’s important for women to check their breasts regularly, and get regular mammograms to ensure early detection. But what about men? After all, the disease is genderless. Where are men in the promotions and pink hoopla which have come to dominate this month? From the advertising blurbs, to the pretty crude publicity about what is a very serious disease, the message about gender inclusivity is being lost. Studies show that less than 50 percent of the general population know that breast cancer is a genderless disease.
It's Time for Change
The time is right to recognize that the 2,700 men diagnosed in the United States annually deserve a fairer go. To this end, we’ve created a Manifesto, a pathway for change in the way breast cancer institutions and charities might take on board protocols for inclusion. The aim is to build and promote a consistent profile and narrative within all cancer groups for male breast cancer that enables a more balanced perspective and supports improved health outcomes.
The Manifesto asks breast cancer groups to:
Provide inclusive imagery and de-gendered language across all mediums to acknowledge the disease exists in men as well as women.
Build a sense of importance and belonging within cancer support groups for male breast cancer patients and their caregivers.
Provide easy access to relevant up-to-date information for men that is prominently displayed and accessible by all groups.
Institute breast cancer research and development funding to the equivalent of one percent of the total amounts raised.
Set aside a day in October to publicize male breast cancer.
Institute public breast screening programs for all BRCA1 and BRCA2 males.
As a man with breast cancer, I’ve often been asked to talk about how men find out they have this disease, and what on earth they need to know to find out if they are at risk. At each event, I have had women and men come up to me and say, I never knew men could get breast cancer. This got me thinking why, after decades of awareness-raising for women’s breast cancer, have we not put the message out there better that men can get this disease too?
About Rod Ritchie
Rod Ritchie is a Sydney-born writer, internet publisher, and breast cancer patient activist, living with breast and prostate cancers. Currently he’s NED for both. He’s President, Board of Directors, Male Breast Cancer Global Alliance, has a website at MaleBC.org and you can follow him on Twitter @malefitness
His articles for Health Union can be found here: https://advancedbreastcancer.net/author/traveltext