What does no bra do for fighting cancer?

Published 9:40 am Friday, October 18, 2013

Column: Things I Tell My Wife, by Matthew Knutson

“Honestly, I really dislike Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” I confessed to my wife after overhearing a conversation between college students at work. They were talking about how Oct. 13 was no-bra day to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Let me preface this column by saying that I don’t mind people raising awareness for breast cancer. People should be aware; in fact, they should be more than just aware. They should probably be taking some sort of action. Instead what we get are Facebook posts and viral campaigns that likely do very little to actually save lives or “raise awareness.”

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No-bra day was the tipping point for me. I don’t understand how a woman not wearing an undergarment for the pure purpose of raising awareness for breast cancer actually does anything. Did it start a conversation with someone? I’m betting it only started a conversation about breast cancer awareness if the non-bra-wearer brought it up. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but they could have started a conversation about it with their bra on if that’s how they regularly dress.

In my mind, not wearing a bra was simply another way for someone to feel better about themselves by taking a stand. Raising awareness should not be about yourself, but rather about the disease. A person raises awareness by knowing and sharing facts, not removing clothing.

I’d like to take a moment to actually educate my readers on breast cancer in the hopes that this month of awareness wasn’t wasted by the unfortunate antics of others. All of these statistics can be found on the CDC website.

1. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, but it isn’t the most deadly. That would be lung cancer.

2. Mammogram screenings are the best method to detect breast cancer. Women aged 50 to 74 should be screened every two years.

3. Most health insurance companies will pay for your screening. Double check with your insurance company before you set up your appointment.

4. As with most cancers, your risk goes down with diet, exercise and preventative screenings. Knowing your family history is also helpful.

I hope you feel more aware now. It’s actually incredibly common information, but it’s something that isn’t shared very often. The messages we do share are likely emotional Facebook posts and witty T-shirt designs.

I find it interesting how many people willingly give their money for something pink to help raise awareness, yet they don’t think about what they are really doing. These pink products are designed to make the consumer feel like they are making a difference. Do you know if the money is going to a reputable organization? How much is another company profiting off of your purchase? Most would agree that it’s better to donate directly to a nonprofit.

One common product I’ve seen plenty of people wearing are wristbands and T-shirts that read, “Save the ta-tas.”

Pardon me, but men and women diagnosed with breast cancer deserve more than just their breasts being saved. I know we live in a sexually objectifying culture, but maybe we should focus on saving the person, not just their breasts.

There are so many cancers that need awareness, but it seems we focus on breasts because that’s what our society tends to do in most situations. In 2007 my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. You don’t hear many people encouraging others to get a colonoscopy at age 50. Maybe it’s not as sexy as breast cancer, but it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America. First place goes to lung cancer, again.

The positive message that I take away from this misguided focus on breast cancer awareness is that it shows that people care. As a society, we need to move beyond caring and toward action. Nearly everyone here is aware of breast cancer, yet people are still dying.

Moving toward a healthier lifestyle is a good place to start. Donating money is another way you can actually make an impact on this disease. There are plenty of good organizations out there, I’ll let you do the research.


Matthew Knutson is a marketing specialist at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. Find him online at thingsitellmywife.tumblr.com.