October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And since one of my goals in life is to be able to show an inappropriate amount of cleavage as often as possible and for as long a possible, I'm determined to do everything I can to keep the sisters intact.
And from what I have learned, the best breast cancer defence is early detection. And early detection is all about vigilence.
According to the American Cancer Society, women in their 20's and 30's should have a a clinical breast exam (CBE) at least every three years. A CBE is basically having your doctor feel your boobies. Women 40 and older, should have a mammogram yearly. Women at high risk should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. High risk is defined as having a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and several other conditions you can read about HERE. And ALL women should give themselves a monthly self exam.
So, as a public service, I'm going to lead you all through this together.
First of all, if you're due to have a mammogram, I want you all to walk to the phone immediately and make an appointment. I'll wait here...
Did you do it? Really? I don't believe you. GO TO THE PHONE AND MAKE AN APPOINTMENT.
Okay, damnit, that's better.
I actually don't mind getting a mammogram. I like the little gowns and the magazines. And it makes me feel strangely pious and martyrlike. A misery we women must endure to ensure our future health and well-being.
And once, the mammogram technician told me I had the "perfect breasts for mammograms". She even asked my permission to use my pictures as examples of the "perfect mammogram" for a talk she was giving. She gushed on and on. I was so flattered! She loved my breasts! So of course, I gave her permission to show pictures of my "perfect breasts". Then I foolishly asked her what that actually meant, you know, "perfect breasts for mammograms". Turns out, "perfect breasts for mammograms" are soft and...fleshy and... malleable. In other words, that saggy post-breast-feeding look. Sigh...
So the next step after making our appointments is self examination. Or...feeling your boobies.
Let's all do this together. If you're in your office, or a room full of people, perhaps you should wait until you get home. Or not! Your choice. Tops off! Brassieres off (Mama always used to say "brassiere". She also said "bosom", which still makes me giggle)!
Step One - Lie down and place your right arm behind your head. It's apparently much more effective to do this lying down because then the breast tissue spreads out as thin as possible, and you can feel around more efficiently.
Step Two - Using the finger pads of the three middle fingers of your left hand, feel for lumps in your right boob. Use "overlapping dime-sized circular motions" to feel around. That's the American Cancer Society talking. Well, they didn't say "boob".
Are you all with me? Are you doing this? I don't believe you. Am I going to have to yell at you again? I WANT YOU ALL ON THE DAMNED FLOOR, FEELING YOURSELF!
Step Three - Use three different levels of pressure to feel all of your boob's tissue. Light pressure for the tissue closest to the skin, medium pressure for a little deeper, and firm pressure to feel the tissue way in there next to the ribs. You should be feeling for anything out of the ordinary. This is where the regular self-exam is important. If you know what you ordinarily feel like, you'll be able to spot the "out of the ordinary".
Step Four - Move around your breast in an up and down pattern, starting under your arm, and working your way to the middle of your chest. Be sure to check the entire area, going all the way down to where you feel only ribs, and all the way up to your collar bone.
Step Five - Now repeat the whole shebang, putting your left arm behind your head and feeling your left boob with your right hand.
Okay now let's all stand up. Don't worry, almost done.
Step Six - Stand in front of a mirror, and put your hands firmly on your hips. Look carefully at your breasts for any changes in "size, shape, contour, or dimpling, or redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin.
Step Seven - Raising your arms slightly, feel around in each underarm. Don't raise your arm straight up, because it tightens the tissue and makes it harder to examine.
Step Eight - Give yourself a little pinch on each nipple. Okay that was just for fun!!
Step Nine - Lie back and have a smoke and a nice glass of Merlot.
Okay, wasn't that fun?!
Now the big quandry is how to remember to do this EVERY MONTH. Back in March, when my Becky from Suburban Matron was first diagnosed with breast cancer (notice how I call her "my Becky"? I like to think she is mine, I'm just possessive that way.), I went out and bought this pillow as a show of solidarity...
...I think of it as my Boob Pillow because, well...it kind of looks like a bunch of bespangled bosoms. I bought it because Becky is a big throw pillow fan. But interestingly, every time I look at it, I think about Becky, and remember to give myself my self examination. So I recommend finding your version of the Boob Pillow. Something that reminds you to take care of yourself.
By the way, Becky has finished with her chemo AND radiation, and is doing fabulously. Here we are, singing our little butts off at BlogHer...
And now, she's no longer wearing Codi (her wig), and is sporting a chic Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby 'do. Why don't y'all drop in here and tell her how happy you are for her progress?
And while we're at it, how about a shout out to Ginny Marie over at Lemon Drop Pie , who has been a breast cancer survivor for ages, like 10 years or so (please set me straight on this Ginny!). Why don't you drop by her place and say hey too! And while you're there, click on her "My Struggle With Breast Cancer" tag at the top to read of her experience.
Okay, I want to hear that ALL of you did your exam. Don't lie to me now...