Successfully Breaking the Breast Binary Regardless of Your Gender Identity
“Save the boobies.” “Save the tatas.” “Wear pink!” Chest cancer doesn’t discriminate, and neither should we.
It’s October! It’s that time of the year when pink ribbons reign supreme, the Cubs and the Socks wind down, and breast cancer advocacy winds up. This year, we’re going beyond the binary because, “breast cancer?” I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean! No, it’s time to talk about “chest cancer.”
Break Free From The Binary
So, let’s break it down. Cancer doesn’t care what chromosomes you have, what your license says, or how you identify. It doesn’t even bat an eye at your pronouns. Breast cancer can strike any chest, and its high time we recognized that!
For our trans and non-binary friends and family, dealing with breast cancer can be complex. Some have had top surgery or augmentation, thinking they’ve waved goodbye to risk of cancer. Even for cisgender people, most people assume that cancer is restricted to certain kinds of bodies or biology. But guess what? Chest cancer can show up unannounced in anyone, regardless of what their chest looks like. If you have chest tissue, you are at risk for chest cancer.
There are over 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States, and 1.2 million non-binary adults. To leave them out of chest cancer screening is a big mistake. About 55 thousand new cases of Ductal Carcinoma En Situ (DCIS) will be diagnosed in 2023 alone. There is a 1 in 8 chance a woman in the United States will develop chest cancer.
… there is almost no research on chest cancer in trans men. This needs to change.
Let’s break down the walls and make Breast Cancer Awareness Month all about supporting every chest, without exceptions.
How To Support All Chests
- Get Schooled: First things first, let’s educate ourselves. We’re talking about understanding the unique experiences of all our friends with chests… which last time I checked, is almost everyone. Whether you’re a cisgender, transgender, non-binary, or anything else, learning about the diverse needs and challenges in chest health is the first step.
- Step Up Your Healthcare: It’s time to demand gender-affirming care, folkx! Spread the word to healthcare providers about using inclusive language, respecting chosen names and pronouns, and serving up culturally competent care, even if you aren’t someone that requires those accommodations.
- Reimagine the Screen: Say goodbye to outdated screening ideas. We need to remember that chest health isn’t just about mammograms. Trans and non-binary folks might still need specific screenings, depending on their chest situation.
- Information Overload: Make sure all the info on chest health is accessible to everyone. We’re talking about resources with gender-neutral language and visuals that scream “You are seen and loved!”
- Donate with Pride: If you are able to donate time or money for chest cancer awareness, pick organizations that wave the inclusive flag high and proud.
- Share Your Story, Bear Your Truth: Encourage everyone, from drag queens to dads, to dish about their chest health experiences. When we share, we empower others!
It’s All About the Timing
Securing a steady schedule with a primary care provider is vital to preventing chest cancer. It’s also vital for preventing a lot of other deadly and dangerous conditions! Find a provider you like, grow that relationship, and rely on frequent visits and honest communication to keep you healthy and safe. I can’t recommend screening, diagnose conditions, or treat symptoms if I don’t see you in my office! Make an appointment with your doctor regularly – preventing conditions is much easier than curing them.
October isn’t just about falling leaves and lattes; it’s about keeping all chests healthy. “Breast” Cancer Awareness Month is our chance to go beyond the binary and ensure that chest health is for everyone, no matter their gender or sexuality. Spread the love, the knowledge, and the support because all our chests deserve nothing but the best.
Here at Howard Brown Health, we have a countless medical providers committed to offering culturally competent, specialized healthcare to those who need it most, regardless of ability to pay. Whether you are a trans man looking for a mammogram or not, Howard Brown Health can help.
About The Author
I’m Sam Lin (she/her), a board-certified Nurse Practitioner and the Telehealth Clinical Lead at Howard Brown Health in Chicago. I received my Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Columbia University as well as a Masters of Public Health from Oregon State University. I’ve always been passionate about promoting health and wellness. I completed my thesis on high-risk populations for HIV/AIDS transmission in India, where I spent several months living in rural villages conducting program evaluation surveys. I took that passion for treating hard-to-reach communities and brought it with me throughout my entire career, and that includes Howard Brown. I am passionate about providing specialized, thorough, and safe care for everyone, including trans and gender-diverse patients. When I’m not providing care, I love adventuring with my family, practicing yoga, and even ballet!