Boobs. Knockers. Ta-tas. Jugs. There are a dozen different names for breasts. And for all that we spend inordinate amounts of time talking about breasts and their place in American culture, what we most certainly do not talk about enough is breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Let’s take a moment to consider our breasts, not as part of our sexual anatomy, but as part of our bodies that need maintenance and care to ensure we live long and healthy lives.
In July 2011,The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology issued new recommended guidelines for breast cancer screening, calling for mammography screenings to be offered annually to all women age 40 and over. For younger women, they’ve shifted their recommendation from “self breast exams” to “self breast awareness.” Meaning, instead of checking your breasts for lumps, tenderness, or unusual appearance once a month, you should get familiar with your breasts and be constantly looking for any changes that may be cause for concern.
I understand how scary it can be to head to your doctor, with unease in the pit of your stomach, when you think you’ve found something. At age 30, I had a painful, though non-health threatening, fibrous cyst removed from my breast. While working to determine exactly what it was, I had ultrasounds that revealed nothing and mammograms that somewhat calmed my fears by coming back “normal.” But the anxiety remained until the operation to excise and biopsy the small mass was over and done. I worried that the doctor would come back and inform me it was more than we thought. My husband, having just lost his father to cancer, had recurring nightmares that I had breast cancer. Regardless of our fears of the unknown state of my health, we had to face it head on. Ignoring it wouldn’t have made it go away and, had it been cancer, could have significantly diminished my chances of survival.
Don’t ignore something that seems unusual. Don’t put off talking to your doctor. When breast cancer is caught in the earliest stages, treatment is far more successful. For example, when breast cancer diagnosis is caught in Stage 0, the 5 year survival rate is 100 percent.
You may be tempted to talk yourself out of facing this fear, telling yourself your family has no history of breast cancer or you’re in a low-risk group. Or you may feel over-confident knowing you eat right, exercise and passed on hormonal treatments for your menopause symptoms. But cancer isn’t fair, and it doesn’t play favorites, and it doesn’t hand out medals to those of us who have tried to do everything by the book. It strikes whenever and whoever it likes.
Here’s what it comes down to; if you have breasts, you can get breast cancer. Do right by your body. Stay sentient, stay self aware and stay healthy.
“The Bombshell Mommy” is written by Abigail Blank, romance author and mother of three. Frozen Heart and its sequel, Melted Tears, are published under her pen name: Annabelle Blume. Got a question about how to juggle it all and still be a Bombshell? Email Abigail at firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @Bombshell_Mommy and look for her on Pinterest.