Male Breast Cancer Breaks the Silence


It may have been a “quiet disease," but we just turned up the volume.

The announcement of Australia’s first ever Male Breast Cancer Awareness Day on Oct. 20, 2017 is great news indeed. Sponsored by Breast Cancer Network Australia this event is the kind of breakthrough that fuels every worthwhile crusade, and forms the cornerstone of a far-reaching movement—the significance of which has the power to change the world.

This will be an opportunity for men affected by breast cancer and those around them, to share their stories and experiences and raise awareness that men get breast cancer too. The day will coincide with male breast cancer awareness events planned in some states in the USA, including my home state of Arizona, where our governor has proclaimed Oct. 15-21, 2017 as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

For far too long now, male breast cancer has been a “back-burner” disease, resulting partly from the relatively small numbers of men affected, but mostly because medical professionals have been underprepared to advise men of the importance of checking their breasts. The result of all this is that breast cancer in men is often caught at a much later stage than in women. And now, with Australia’s participation, a once-muted movement is clearly visible through an expansive, world-wide voice.

I’ve often wondered what it’s like living as a minority. It seems so many of the world’s woes are attributed to being invisible, undiscernible or forgotten. I am not for a minute a victim of my disease, but I’ve had the privilege of understanding in a very small but significant way, the frustration of being overlooked and underestimated.

We are all aware of breast cancers “pinkability factor” which arrives every October as a women’s celebration that erupts in a fundraising and awareness-raising spectacle like no other in the world of cancer consciousness.

If this women’s event were the brass section in an orchestra, the male equivalent might be the trumpet. But that single horn is the highest and most brilliant of the brass instruments. And in that harmony of notes that tantalize our ears is a symphony; and if you listen closely you’ll hear the music of that melodious trumpet pushing through.

We guys need our own orchestra. The male breast cancer organizations who are out there, both here and Australia, are doing a good job of leading the band, assisting our men, spreading news and information not only to us, but to the medical community.

And today, as we share the news of our disease across the globe, we are well on the way making significant changes in the way the world views and understands male breast cancer. I, for one, celebrate with the women of the world and join them in the goal of eradicating breast cancer forever. And it’s clear that more and more women are seeing beyond the pink.

The point is: we are all playing the same music and in the same orchestra. Just on different instruments.

Granted, our numbers are few with just 2,600 men being diagnosed in the U.S. this year. In fact, there are more Starbucks stores open in China today, than there are new male breast cancer cases diagnosed in a year. We are small but not insignificant. We don’t carry the power of pink, but our strength lies in our commitment to spread the word and help other men. Our voices may be but a trumpet in the orchestra, but we resonate with the confidence and resolve of a marching band, in step with all who battle cancer, celebrating in health and harmony.

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