The other night I caught a report
on the eleven o' clock news that stopped my channel surfing cold. I
was stunned to hear that monthly breast self-examinations were no
longer suggested as an important method of diagnosing breast cancer.
The reporter quoted the American Cancer
Society's new guidelines
that say "Mammography is so far the only screening method that
has been consistently proven to reduce deaths from breast cancer…."
I could not believe my ears. In an
instant, the television news report took away my feeling of control
over the possibility of helping myself live a longer and healthier
life. It made me angry that a brief sound bite might make millions
of women let down their guard or feel stupid for having been so
conscientious all their lives.
It is no doubt great news to hear
about the success of mammography. Women should be encouraged to keep
current with their yearly exams. Universally, it has been recommended
that women start their yearly mammograms at the age of forty. That
is when I had my first exam. I, like many women, never went back. It
was costly and I didn't think I had any reason to be concerned.
Even during the years that I
thought, "it could never happen to me" I was at least very
aware of my breasts and I performed self-exams with some regularity
taking the time to observe them for any perceptible changes. I am
sure that I am not unique.
If I didn't get myself in for
regular mammograms, wouldn't it be better to at least be doing the
self-exams? For many, many women this has been the case. I have
personally met and spoken to scores of women who have found the
lumps that lead to their breast cancer diagnosis through
self-examination. Especially now that my ovarian cancer has made me
a part of the cancer community.
I understand that a well-timed
mammogram may have detected a tumor or calcification in an earlier
stage, but what if you are in-between exams with a fast-growing
cancer? Or, like so many women, not making a yearly exam a priority.
Isn't it better to be doing something preventative?
What about the rate of women
younger than 40 who are getting breast cancer these days? In their
twenty's, most women feel they are invincible. They have never had
anything threaten their health and they don't understand how much
'an once of prevention' can truly be worth. Shouldn't we be
recommending yearly mammograms from the age of twenty as the National
Breast Cancer Foundation suggests? If younger women
can't be convinced shouldn't they at least
learn to give themselves an exam at home?
On the American Cancer Society's
Website an article dated 5/15/2003 states, "Under the new
guidelines, BSE [breast self-examination] is being recognized as a way for
women to know how their breasts normally feel and notice any
changes. This approach focuses on the importance of self-awareness
compared to early detection….Breast cancer is the most common form
of cancer ….more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with it this
year, and nearly 40,000 will die from it."
OK, I get it, the mammogram could
improve the odds of finding breast cancer at an earlier stage.
Believe me, I will now get them regularly. But not because I have
been told that my self-examinations may not catch an abnormality as
early. For me, it is because I have learned the hard way that none of
us are immune from the possibility of cancer.
I will also continue to do my
monthly self-examinations because I prefer to know that if the
science, or timing fail me, I may be able to help myself.
We at ChemoChicks feel so strongly
about Breast Self-Exams that we are pleased bring you the
Breast-Tee®. A great gift to yourself and for all the women that
For more information
on the Breast Tee®