Friday, October 8, 2010

A Different Perspective on Cancer Awareness

As America observes October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it can't be overemphasized that almost everybody has in one way or another been touched by this dreaded disease, whether as a victim herself, or as an acquaintance, friend, or family member of a woman who has been afflicted with this this illness.  Yet it bears mentioning that men also fall prey to breast cancer and account for 1—2% of all such victims which of course is a relatively small number. However, men who do get it fare less favorably  because this malignancy is so rare in males that they often don't recognize the symptoms in time to receive life saving treatment.

But in American culture, men are less likely to seek medical help or postpone examination for dangerous symptoms because from childhood, we are taught to "be a man" and to just "walk off" pain lest we be accused of weakness. Perhaps this explains why men have not had the same consciousness raising that women had about their gender-specific illnesses and possibly the reason that breast cancer research receives over twice the research funding as prostate cancer. Yet prostate cancer kills almost as many men as breast cancer kills women and is the second leading cause of death in American men.  

This is not to say that prostate cancer is totally neglected in terms of organized campaigns to battle this disease.  Zero The Project to End Prostate Cancer is sponsoring events over the next couple months such as "Dash for Dads" runs and other fund-raising events .

Yet  despite these heroic efforts of Zero and even if prostate cancer received parity in research funding along with a better orchestrated reminder  that there is a National Prostate Awareness month  (September, but who knew that?),  as a humanist concerned with the health and well being of people as a whole, I  question the need to "gender-ize" public awareness in this matter in the first place.

Cancer in any and all forms needs to be kept constantly in the public eye as the devastating and often deadly  illness that it often becomes.  Do we do justice to its sufferers and their loved ones by waging  separate "his" and "hers" awareness  campaigns?  And what about other the types of cancer? Should there be monthly programs for each of them as well?

Instead, why not have  a Cancer Awareness month dedicated to everyone? After all who among us isn't at risk to one degree or another regardless such factors as sex, or age and life style for that matter?  Let's respond accordingly.