Women’s issues are, and should be getting more attention and action. However, given the fact that patriarchal societies still carry with them a toxic masculinity which makes anything associated with women something shameful or embarrassing for men to admit to being a part of, it is important to not “gender” certain issues. One of these issues is breast cancer, and in Australia, they are finally realizing that these “pink” campaigns are marginalizing male victims of this disease.
Although breast cancer is usually seen as a woman’s disease, around 145 Australian men were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and around 25 died from it. A little under 1% of all breast cancers occur in men, so it is more common than most people think.
However, breast cancer in men is often diagnosed when larger and at a more advanced stage than in women. This is probably because it is not recognised for what it is, or perhaps because there remains considerable stigma around male breast cancer.
Part of the delay in identifying breast cancer symptoms could relate to men’s reluctance to seek medical care in general. However, there are likely to be specific additional issues related to malignancy in an organ that men are not meant to have and may feel embarrassed or in denial about.
Stigma is likely exacerbated by our many “pink” campaigns to raise breast cancer awareness and improve outcomes for women.
A two-pronged attack is needed to combat this issue: attack the stigma associated with anything considered too “feminine”, and spread awareness that this affects men too.
I recently posted a snarky video out of Argentina which used male breasts to spread awareness about how to check yourself for breast cancer, given the fact that female nipples are too “obscene” to be viewed on social media. Looks like this video is even more useful than I initially thought: men need to learn how to check for the signs too.