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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Don't just be a boob -- give the finger

Ladies, we need to talk for a moment. (Guys, please stick around, this will be relevant to you in a moment.)

Those of us who are active on social media are no doubt familiar with the various "cryptic status update" games which have been so very popular of late, the most recent being "I'm at X weeks and craving Y." Before that it was your shoe size in inches and how long it took you to do your hair, and before that it was... what? Color of the bra strap? Where you like to put your purse? These are all quite silly things, all done in the name of raising awareness for breast cancer.

Now I'll be honest with you: I'm not a big fan of these things. This is partially because I've lost loved ones to cancer, and therefore I don't find anything cute or jokey about it; and partially because these games seem to be coming at an increasing pace. Once a year is a fine thing. Once every 6 months, okay. But now it seems like there's been only 2-3 weeks between the "craving" meme and the "inches" meme, and whatever merit your message has is being lost in the noise of constant silly updates.

Another thing which bugs me is the lack of inclusion in these games. You want to make it a secret from men, have them keep guessing. Let me tell you: most guys just don't give a damn. They go "Oh look, the women are being cryptic again," and promptly ignore it to go about their business. In an effort to draw attention to a female problem, you are excluding half of your potential audience, and that exclusion really, really bothers me. We live in an exclusionary society already; we should strive to be more inclusive, not exclusive.

Before you think I'm a killjoy or a sourpuss, let me say that I am all for breast cancer awareness. I think it's safe to say that everyone in the developed world knows about the dangers of undiagnosed breast cancer, and the benefits to detecting and preventing it early. But there are two other cancers I'd like to see receive as much awareness as breast cancer does.

The first, of course, is lung cancer, the #1 cancer in America (and possibly the rest of the world, but I don't have access to that data).  Lung cancer kills more people than cancers #2 and #3 combined, and it affects both genders equally.* I'd like to see more awareness regarding detection and prevention of lung cancer because it will potentially save more lives, although I admit that detection is a lot harder and less convenient than a mammogram.

However, the other kind of cancer I'd like to talk about is easy to detect, but it receives nearly zero publicity and awareness. (This is where you come in, boys.) I am, of course, talking about prostate cancer, the #2 killer of men. Not only is it right behind lung cancer, in some cases it's nearly as fatal! Did you know that in 2007, the fatality rate for prostate cancer in black men was nearly that of lung cancer? 52% versus 55.9%, according to the CDC.

But prostate cancer doesn't get nearly the press that breast cancer does. I'm not sure if that's due to the discomfort and embarrassment inherent in the manner of detection, or if it's because the prostate is an internal organ and therefore not as photogenic as a breast. Either way, I find it terribly unfair and exclusionary, because we all have men in our lives who matter to us: husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, lovers and friends.

Again, I reiterate: I'm not saying "Stop breast cancer awareness, pay attention to this instead," I'm saying "This seems to be working well for you, how about you share some of the love and publicity with other forms of cancer awareness?" Cancer is not a female-only problem, but to my eyes, and the eyes of many men I know, it seems like we are focusing our awareness only on the breast.

Lung cancer, at least, benefits from stop-smoking advertisements and the good work of the American Cancer Society, but I have yet to see any sort of media blitz or Facebook status update regarding prostate cancer. I think that needs to change. I would very much like to see some sort of awareness campaign for prostate cancer. Something like:

"My doctor gave me the finger... 
and I gave the finger to prostate cancer."

It's not especially catchy, I know, but it gets the point across, and it's the kind of low, crass humor that guys are likely to enjoy and pass along.

What do you think, readers? Surely I'm not alone in this sentiment, and there are people out there more skilled than I in marketing. We can do something about this, make it more visible in the public consciousness.

And I think having the public's eye focused on the prostate is something we can all get behind.

My sources:

* Yes, I'm aware that a tiny percentage of men get breast cancer. While I wish them well, they still don't alter the statistics of lung cancer vs. breast cancer.

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