The Explainer: “Awareness” in other shapes and colors.

Yup, it’s me and I’m kinda sorta back to doing the Explainer column, after having dropped off the map while I was doing Live Updates and such. This week’s is not a normal Explainer column, though. That will be back on Saturday and I will happily field questions related to cycling, legal issues related to cycling or anything that catches my eye. (Please send your questions to Charles@Pelkey.com and I will try to answer as many as I can and include one or more in the next column)

But for now, you’ll have to bear with me and let me rant about one particular subject. I just needed to get something off my chest, so to speak.

More than just a parade of pink
PinkOkay, it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For the most part, we are all quite aware … with one lone exception. In an effort to increase “awareness” this annual parade of pink ribbons generates a host of news stories about breast cancer, early detection etc. More often than not, those stories include the phrase “women with breast cancer.”

Ninety-nine percent of the time that is an accurate statement. There were approximately 180,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. in 2011. That year, there were 1800 MEN diagnosed as well.

I know.

I was one of them.

Obviously, we men are far less likely to get breast cancer than women. It’s logical to refer to it as a “women’s disease,” but it is not that exclusively. We are mammals. We all have “breast” tissue, including ducts, nipples etc. In men it’s generally useless tissue – tits on a boar, if you will – but it can be subject to the same cancers suffered by women, albeit far less frequently.

According to a study presented earlier this year at the American Society of Breast Surgeons conference, when men are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is often deadlier. That’s largely because men (and even their health care providers) tend to ignore those early symptoms that trigger alarm bells when it comes to female patients.

Because of that lack of “awareness,” men tend to be diagnosed later than women (even though our tumors are actually detectable at an earlier stage) and as a result have larger tumors, are more likely to have had the cancer spread and live, on average, two fewer years than women who are diagnosed.

I was lucky. I found an aggressive 2.3cm, grade 3 tumor when it was just at Stage 2b. A failed lumpectomy, a bilateral mastectomy and five months of chemo later, I’m as good as new (albeit sans nipples).

We caught that sucker in time. Other men, like my late uncle weren’t quite as lucky. Many ignore indicators, thinking that a bump is merely a cyst. Worse still is when medical professionals tell them it’s nothing to worry about. Get a second opinion.

I’m not asking you to donate money. I am not begging you to participate in a walkathon or a 5k. You don’t have to wear a ribbon, a pin or a wristband. Nope, I am not asking you to do any of that. Instead, let’s truly honor National Breast Cancer Awareness Month simply by becoming aware.

Be aware that now and then, in those rare cases, this also happens to men.

Don’t panic if you find a lump, but please, please, please don’t ignore it by thinking that breast cancer is only something that affects women.

Just be aware.

Small HeadshotThe Explainer is a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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5 comments

  1. Aar

    Welcome back, Charles. I followed you to RBP and have missed your weekly column in recent months. Looking forward to more Explainer…

  2. PeterLeach

    Welcome back Charles.
    “I’m not asking you to donate money. I am not begging you to participate in a walk or a 5k. You don’t have to wear a ribbon, a pin or a wristband.”
    I’m proudly wearing my pin.
    As Charles suggests, I encourage everyone to do all they can to move beyond ‘acknowledgement’ to ‘awareness”.

  3. Jonathan

    Thanks Charles.
    I’d like to expand this out to finding lumps ANYWHERE. I had testicular cancer, and probably wouldn’t have had it checked unless my wife pretty much forced me to go see my GP. Saved my life pretty much, got the tumour out before it spread and I made a really quick recovery.

    So to everyone: don’t put that check-up off. If something doesn’t feel right there’s a pretty good chance it just ain’t right…

  4. Khal Spencer

    Best news here is seeing Charles still writing articles rather than…not being here with us.

    I recently had a large flat red growth rapidly grow on the skin over my left collarbone. Fortunately, sent off and came back as some weird benign thing. Now I am watching for weird things, given my decades of being a weekend warrior out in the sun.

    Its scary stuff at any rate. Be aware of your body–and not just in a narcissistic way. Catching this stuff early beats the alternative, as my mom found out. She discovered she had colon cancer when it was already Stage IV, and treatment was palliative.

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