The Other Breast Cancer Ribbon

When you think of breast cancer you probably think women and pink ribbons. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 232,340 women will be affected by invasive breast cancer in the U.S. this year alone. Sadly, an estimated 39,620 women will also succumb to the disease this year.
Breast cancer awareness month is approaching rather quickly and the month of October will soon be flooded with pink ribbons, chants for much-needed awareness, and the sneaker clad feet marching at the many survivors' walks. There will be family and friends that march with victory to honor the triumphs of a loved one, or the memorial walk that quietly remembers the life that was taken too soon. Either way, we march to the same beat with hope to raise awareness and for those who are forever changed because of these two words "breast cancer."
I would like to take a moment to recognize the men that are also affected by breast cancer. The ACS estimates 2,140 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, with an expected 450 that will die. The percentage of men that are diagnosed is very minimal in comparison to the percentage of women, but unfortunately men hear those same daunting words – "breast cancer." Men are just as uneasy when finding that infamous lump that many women find. Just like women, men have mastectomies, men have hormonal therapy, and men have chemotherapy.
I remember being encountered by a gentleman last year at the Survivor's Day picnic at Backus. He politely came up to me and asked, "Do you have the other breast cancer ribbon?" For a moment I stood still and looked at the brightly decorated table all in pink. I didn't even realize that there was "another pink ribbon" specific to breast cancer for men. Quietly this gentleman shared with me his story of having breast cancer and that he was a proud survivor. I am thankful for that moment and will be forever cognizant of our short conversation.
If you take one message away from this article, please spread the word that self breast exams are for men too. As I will be watching and cheering on the many stomping feet at the future "Relays for Life" and the "Making Strides" annual walks, I will be fully aware of the quiet one that marches with the pink and blue ribbon.

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