REAL Breast Cancer Awareness

I’m hijacking my Janathon blog today for a non-running subject close to my heart.

It’s that time of year again when the female of the species are encouraged to play a game, specifically aimed at excluding males, by placing a glib Facebook status in the name of breast cancer awareness.  So following the previous bra colour and handbag location “games” this time it’s using your birthday to determine where you’re going on holiday and for how long.

The Wife received the latest secret game via a Facebook invite from one of my relatives which just demonstrates how little people think about what they are doing when it comes to these games; just under 3 years ago The Wife underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy for breast cancer.  Not what you expect at the age of 29, having never smoked, drunk responsibly and kept fit.

So it was a good job that she not only knew how but regularly checked her breasts, because I don’t want to think what my life would be like now if she hadn’t found the lump.

There are people who will argue that the “game” on Facebook gets people talking about breast cancer so therefore it is raising awareness.  Firstly I’d say that the game has no obvious link to breast cancer awareness so I bet half the people who see the statuses don’t even realise it’s got anything to do with breast cancer.  Secondly, just because people are talking about the game doesn’t mean they are aware, or even becoming aware of breast cancer.

Let’s look at what awareness means:

awareness: the state of being aware;

So what is meant by being aware?

aware: having knowledge; aware of danger; informed;

My questions about the Facebook game that claims to be raising awareness of breast cancer would therefore be:

  • How does it provide knowledge about breast cancer?
  • How does it make anyone aware of the danger of breast cancer?
  • How does it inform people about breast cancer?

Social media is a powerful tool that can provide instant access to reams of information so if the creators of the Facebook “games” had any intention of truly raising awareness they would have put a link to important information on how to check you breasts.  Like this, for example, from Breast Cancer Care: Changes To Look & Feel

Or even this guidance form the Department of Health:

The breast awareness 5-point code

  1. Know what is normal for you.
  2. Know what changes to look for.
  3. Look and feel.
  4. Tell your GP about any changes straight away.
  5. Go for breast screening when invited.

The next issue I have is the concept of excluding men from the game.

To begin with, how can you profess to be raising awareness if you are excluding anybody, regardless of whether it is a man or otherwise?  To actively encourage the exclusion of 50% of the population seems utterly ridiculous.  Given that many of that excluded 50% will be husbands, boyfriends, brothers, fathers and sons of the people who will suffer from the disease surely we should be making sure they are just as aware?

Before my partner was diagnosed I had a woeful lack of knowledge and awareness about breast cancer so when she first found a lump I had no idea what to do or say.  Thankfully, advances in technology and specifically the t’interweb mean that you can find a lot of information very quickly nowadays.

The breast cancer charities like Breast Cancer Care, Breakthrough Breast Cancer & Against Breast Cancer all provide tailored information.  Here is something from Breast Cancer Care specifically for partners of people diagnosed with breast cancer: My Partner Has Breast Cancer.

Other more general cancer charities like Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres, the charity I am currently running and fundraising for, can also provide information, support or even someone to talk to.

I would also like to bring your attention to the fact that men get breast cancer too.

Yep, when I first heard it I didn’t believe it but of the 50,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, 300 of them are men.  Yet another reason not to exclude them.  You can find more information about male breast cancer here: Men & Breast Cancer.

If you’ve read this far I’m probably preaching to the converted but it’s worth saying anyway: just think about what you are doing on Facebook and whether it will really make the difference you are being led to believe.  By all means play secret status games if you want to but not in the name of breast cancer awareness.  Ultimately it’s just the latest incarnation of a chain letter.

In a vain attempt to increase real awareness I have created a Facebook page to replicate this blog and the information contained within, by all means spread the word and like the page if you want: http://www.facebook.com/REALBreastCancerAwareness

Remember that you can never be sure who breast cancer will pick – my wife was under 30, has never smoked, drinks responsibly, keeps fit, is not overweight and has no family history of the disease and it still picked her.  The one thing I am sure of is: no matter how scary the thought of finding something is, it is far better to find something early than to find it too late.

The two things I implore you all to do is to become aware and get checking those breasts.

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12 thoughts on “REAL Breast Cancer Awareness”

  1. Thanks for the blog Dan – I lost a very close friend to breast cancer at 28, and I had a scare about 5 years ago. I hope that your partner is now well and that your Facebook page gets some support!

  2. Totally agree with you on this. Social media is such a brilliant avenue to raise awareness but without careful thought it can be rendered pretty useless.

  3. Hi Dan, great blog. I work in an oncology hospital and know only too well how much this affects people. I will share the link to as many as I can!

  4. Very good post; couldn’t agree more with how ineffective these ‘games’ are at raising awareness and how shocking it is that men are meant to be excluded. Good luck with the fundraising.

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