Welcome to Breast Cancer Awareness Month

For those who are living in a cave: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It is also the “Month of Absurd Slacktivism Memes,” such as this one:

BC Awareness

Leaving aside the grammatical issue (I presume that the creator wants to support breast cancer awareness, not breast cancer), what on earth is the point of all this?

We are not living in the nineteenth century or some third-world country wherein women do not know that there is such a thing as breast cancer, or are not able to receive treatment for it absent massive social stigma.  Angelina Jolie told the whole world that she got a preventative double mastectomy; do we really need more “awareness” of this disease? Does removing one’s bra really make other women think, “Oh, breast cancer – gotta get my mammogram”?

The sad thing is that social media could be very effective in preventing breast cancer.  Even “Self-Exam Saturday” or “Mammogram and MRI Monday” could educate women about how to detect cancer earlier, prevent the disease, or speak to their doctor about appropriate screening.

Occupy Wall Street had a “99%” meme; breast cancer internet memes could have a “We Are The 90%” meme to represent the 90% of women who get breast cancer but lack the genetic mutation of BRCA1 or BRCA2.

I am not being facetious with “Self-Exam Saturday”: my breast doctor told all of her patients to do daily self-exams. It’s hard to remember to do them the day after the last day of your period, but people can remember do to “daily” exams frequently enough to detect breast and lymph node changes.  Yes, lymph nodes: invasive breast cancer usually spreads to the lymph nodes in the armpits first, and can be detected by a hardening of those lymph nodes.  Breast self-exams should include the entire breast, including the “tail” (the outer part that leads up to the armpit).

Raise your hand if you’ve purchased “breast cancer awareness” products in the supermarket but were unaware of how to do a proper breast self-exam.

Raise your hand if you’ve seen cheesy “post your bra colour on Facebook” memes but did not know that the supermajority of women who get breast cancer do not have the gene.

Raise your hand if you think that the slacktivism memes are more harmful than useful.


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