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Breast cancer prevention message should be aimed at men and women

Male and female survivors of breast cancer posed for a picture during the seventh edition of "A Brushstroke for Life" at the Cabañas Cultural Institute in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Aug. 28. The project aims to make the disease more visible to the world.ULISES RUIZ/AFP via Getty Images

As a male breast cancer survivor, I could not agree more with the Stat commentary by Vivian Kobusingye Birchall in the Nov. 5 Ideas section (“How about a little blue in the ribbons for breast cancer awareness?”).

About 1 in 800 men are estimated to be at risk of breast cancer in their lifetime. There is probably a much greater number of men who ignore a lump or other abnormality. We might think it is from a bump into something, the garden rake snapping up and catching us, or an elbow caught during a basketball game.

I was one who ignored it, even ignored my longtime doctor’s initial direction. Only because he refused to take no for an answer did I dodge what could have been something much more severe.


Birchall’s suggestion to add just a bit of blue to the pink ribbon is a start. Hospitals and clinics need to embrace men as well. In my experience, I felt out of place at first. The information and posters were directed at women; even the magazines in the waiting area targeted women. It was as if breast cancer never happened to men.

During the nearly five years since my surgery, I have seen a change, but not enough. We need boys and young men to be told that they should check themselves; we need public service announcements on prevention aimed at men and women at sporting events and other venues; most of all, we should ensure that men also get the message, “If you feel something, say something (to your doctor).”

I was fortunate because I listened in time and I have a great medical team. So let’s add a little blue to the ribbon and to education and messaging.

Michael Gallerani