Big & bouncy or flat-chested,
All boobs matter, get ‘em tested.
In October 2015, the American Cancer Society (ACS) issued new guidelines saying women should start getting mammograms at age 45 instead of 40. They published a research study outlining the risks and benefits of mammograms, citing “the trauma of a false positive” and “intense anguish while waiting on the results of the screening” as legitimate medical deterrents. They claimed “women who undergo biopsies for non-malignant masses may be reluctant to pursue further testing at other points in her life.”
These changes, and the reasons behind them, outraged breast cancer survivors who said they would “gladly risk a false positive – and all the emotions that go with it – for the chance of an early diagnosis.”
Thank God my dear friend Patty didn’t heed the ACS’s advice but went ahead and got screened shortly after her 40th birthday. If she had waited even one of the recently-added five years to discover the triple negative tumors growing in her left breast, which had already spread to her lymph nodes, it may have been too late.
Patty – a wife, a mother of three, and a friend to all – is the very reason mammograms exist. Had her results delivered a false positive and her biopsy deemed unnecessary, she would have been relieved and quickly forgotten the “trauma,” I am certain. Because they were accurate and timely, she was able to begin treatment immediately, thus improving her prognosis.
In Patty’s case, and every case, early detection increases survival rates exponentially. FULL STOP.
This year, in the wake of Patty’s diagnosis, my mammogram took on more significance than usual and I had some pretty deep thoughts while sitting in the waiting room. “The View” was on TV, and I wondered if the men over at the prostate clinic were subjected to the same contrived bickering, or if they watched something grungier, like “Pawn Stars”? I wondered if my excessive sweating was due to it being a 90-degree August day or was purely psychosomatic because I had been told to skip deodorant? I wondered if the faux spa décor fooled anyone into forgetting they were here for a cancer screening and not a facial.
Too fidgety to read the magazines that no one seemed to look at anymore, I pulled out my phone. Status update: “Feeling nervous at Radial Mammography Imaging.” Posted!
Immediately, I questioned the appropriateness of sharing something so personal. I imagined my co-workers and neighbors or the teachers at my daughter’s school reading about my mammogram in their newsfeed. Did they really need to know my boobs were being squashed and X-rayed? Was I making some of my Facebook friends uncomfortable by supplying them with a vision of me shirtless in a darkened room, arms and shoulders contorted in an effort to find killer lumps? How did this matter to anyone besides me and, maybe, Patty?
I considered deleting the post, though deep down I knew I wouldn’t. I knew it mattered. It mattered to everyone – especially if it made them uncomfortable. Mammograms are a necessary precaution and should be as routine as going to the dentist. Did anyone care that I was having one today? Probably not, but when has caring ever been a stipulation when it comes to sharing on social media? If you think it’s share-worthy, then dammit, by all means, share. Super Bowl manicure? Cliff-jumping in your bathing suit? New puppy? Yes, please! Share your life and I’ll share mine. Today, mine includes a sweaty breast exam.
I have about 175 Facebook friends (not to make anyone jealous); by posting about my mammogram, one of them may see it and be reminded to make an appointment for herself, or bug his wife to call her doctor, or offer to go with a friend. By posting about my screening today and every year to follow, I aim to familiarize the Facebook world with breast tests and quell the rumors about them being painful (they’re not), scary (cancer is scarier), and embarrassing (only a little).
Status updates are really just a means of conveying information without sounding like a show-off, so why not use them for the betterment of women’s health? I encourage you all to join me and “check-in” at your next screening. Maybe we’ll start a trend and people will humble-brag about being at the mammo clinic, like they do when they’re at the airport or a new restaurant or the salon.
The more we share about saving our breasts, the more breasts we’ll save to share. Post proudly. Go ahead – tag a sister. Do it for Patty.