Breast Cancer Isn't Contageous - Ignorance About It Is

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breast cancer survivor

One week ago today, the New York Times front page garnered a lot of attention with a lead story and picture about breast cancer. Awareness to this all too common disease was the intended purpose. The controversy it caused wasn't. But in drawing such vast outcry, much for the wrong reason, it may net out at doing some major good.

If a picture is worth a 1000 words, this one's bringing down the house. From Yahoo News:

Criticism was fierce, though, both in the newspaper’s comments and letters section and elsewhere online, on blogs and in social media. People noted a variety of reasons for being shocked and offended, from the tattoo, which reminded some readers of the Holocaust, to the fact that the disembodied image did not include the woman’s face or head. But the biggest problem seemed to be that of the nearly exposed nipple, which readers called “trashy,” “inappropriate” and “risqué.” The Drudge Report called the photo a “Peep Show” in a headline, while freaked-out tweets talked about “boobs” and warned, “Areola above the fold!” The shots continued: The Daily Caller criticized the paper for using "boob shots," while Bustle noted that "the New York Times has managed to titillate and enrage the always-prim-and-proper Internet."

The truly shocking thing here is that there is a discomfiture at all. That we've become so "modest" or even juvenile in treating medical issues with silly, guilty little snickers and holier than thou stands on something that is killing women and men everyday. The guilt should be that we can do something about breast cancer in many of the cases, yet instead, some people resort to giggles or gazes in titillated awe (yes, purposeful choice of adjective). It used to be women and men all had to wear full body bathing suits because or puritanical values. We got over that. Is dealing with a life threatening disease going to become victim of the same primitive thinking? Can't we act as adults here?

There is one thing offensive to this photo. It's that it stirs up controversy at all. It only points out the ignorance of so many in this country. That's both shocking and alarming. Millions of people are dying from this disease. Grave stones and memories are all that are left for far too many.

Here's how the woman in the photo feels about this perceived "immodest" picture, as quoted in the NYTimes:

When I first saw the photo I did not find it either provocative or inappropriate. I thought it was powerful and told my story – I am a proud, young Jewish woman who had breast cancer, and I have a scar that proves it. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by the scar. Most of my breast was not exposed and the small part that was does not make the picture “cheap.” I think it’s very artistic.

Unless we get over our bigotry and educate ourselves, millions more marble headstones will be sent to the stone cutters when it's diagnosis, prevention and treatment of breast cancer that should be the focus of our attention.

Fortunately for us, the Affordable Care Act will soon allow millions to be provided with pre-screenings, early diagnosis and treatment. Early detection is the key to survival. This picture is doing what it's intended to do -- bringing about attention to prevention -- of unnecessary deaths.

So let's stop the childish prudishness. There's  nothing in the picture you can't see on regular network TV. No new ground is being plowed her. The human body is something we have to live with and accept, not snicker and hide. Certainly videos on breast self-exams are far more graphic. But they save lives. So let's step out of the closet, turn on the light. Your life may depend on it.

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  • Myrt Myrt

    People may *think* it is kind of obvious, since the scar is quite high on her breast, but the glimpse of nipple gives the scar it's context in relation to the rest of the breast. Without it, the question/lurking fear as to whether the nipple was undamaged by the surgery this woman had would remained unanswered, and in my experience it's fears like that that play a part in making women hesitate to get lumps checked out/have regular checks.