When was the last time you heard a PSA about male breast cancer? Probably never, right? Like a lot of issues these days, women tend to grab the headlines and dominate the spotlight.
The public health establishment, much of it dominated by women, is no exception. Find a disease that afflicts women, and everyone thinks we should spend millions of dollars to find a cure.
Over the past two decades, female breast cancer has become a national cause of célèbre. Women run marathons and hand out pink ribbons for everyone to wear – including men. Other cancers claim far more lives, but breast cancer has claimed our attention like no other.
Though no one wants to admit it, gender – and sex — has a lot to do with this preoccupation. Many women fear losing their breasts because they strike at the heart of her female identity. They may never have any intention of having children, much less breast-feeding them, but the right to obsesses over their boobies is considered God-given.
They may not even have breasts worth obsessing oversize or shape-wise – but it hardly matters. Breast cancer, when it strikes, is an attack on womanhood, the very idea of it. It’s another form of patriarchy. It must be resisted by women everywhere – and by the men that love them.
Truth is, men do love breasts. Not just because we remember them nurturing us as infants but because we never really stopped obsessing over them. In fact, we spend an inordinate amount of time admiring them still – wherever they may appear. Or when they don’t appear — and really wish that they would.
So naturally, we have boundless sympathy for someone getting a mastectomy. Especially if we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy those luscious bazoongas ourselves. It’s like losing a member of the family – maybe two.
Which brings me to male breast cancer. It exists, but no one ever seems to talk about it. Sure, it’s fairly rare, and it usually doesn’t strike a man until later in life. But it’s also underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed.
Men are never encouraged – as women are — to pay attention to any small lumps that might appear in the area around their nipples. Doctors often mistake it for a cyst or some other benign growth. As a result, the mortality rate for male breast cancer is actually quite high – far higher now than the rate for female breast cancer.
Am I suggesting that we start a new publicity campaign for male breast cancer awareness? Not really. After all, men labor in all the dangerous jobs and account for 90% of all workplace fatalities. We’re used to having it hard. We’d hate to come off like cry-babies.
Still, it wouldn’t hurt if someone acknowledged that men and their diseases deserve more attention. Some cancer-causing afflictions, like HPV, long thought of as a “women’s disease” actually strike men more often – and like breast cancer, have a higher mortality rate in men.
Not that most men know this. Most of us don’t even like going to the doctor. Some part of us would really rather fuss over our women, and assume the role of self-less protector.
But deep down we’re still macho pigs. If you really want to get our attention, show us the rates for penile or testicular cancer? Hell, we’ll be demanding reparations.