10/08/2014 12:46 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2014

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Needs a Makeover: Advocating for Blue Awareness in a Sea of Pink


"I went... to the liquor store to pick up some wine, shifted my bag around, put the wine in and shifted it back and hit something on my chest that actually hurt and I went home and checked it out and it was a big lump."

"I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and I didn't turn on any lights. I had, run into the door with that left side of my chest, and it really hurt and I started rubbing my chest as if you hit a body part sometimes you'll rub it to try to make it feel better. Well I was rubbing the area with my hand, and I thought I could feel something hard, you know, in the area of that nipple."

These are typical breast cancer awareness narratives gathered from an on-going study I am conducting on men's experiences with breast cancer. It is not often that we hear stories about men with breast cancer. In fact, it is a common misconception that breast cancer is a disease faced only by women.

Breast cancer awareness month started on October 1, but does not often include male awareness of about breast cancer. Instead we see pictures of women having having breast exams and mammography screenings and talk about cancer prevention centering on women's cancer concerns.

The fact that men get breast cancer to is rarely mentioned.

Let's change this.

Every year, roughly 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer, and every year roughly 400 men die from breast cancer and over 10 percent of male breast cancer cases are connected to hereditary genetic mutations. Men are diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years later than women and the mortality rate for men with breast cancer is much higher than for women.

Why not add some blue to that sea of pink awareness during this month by
contacting the American Cancer Society and cancer organizations you may know who can support the initiative to designate the third week of October as men's breast cancer awareness week.

Let's advocate for together for the men in our lives to begin to turn around the deadly consequences of the lack of awareness of breast cancer among men, the medical professional and the society as a whole.

Dr. Sharlene Hesse-Biber is a Professor Sociology at Boston College. Her recent book, Waiting for Cancer to Come was just published. Thanks go to the BC BRCA Male Breast Cancer Undergraduate Research team for their insights and support on this issue, especially Lauren Simeo.