Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Better Late Than Never: A Pink Ribbon Extravaganza

This past year at my annual physical, the nurse asked me a familiar question--and I gave her a familiar answer:

Nurse: Are you doing monthly breast exams?

Me: No.

Nurse: (Scrunches up face at me and makes a tsk, tsk noise.)

Me: (Feels chagrined, makes promise to self to begin right away.)

Six months later. . .

I have still not performed a BSE (Brease Self-Examination.)

I'm a little late for a breast cancer awareness post. After all, October was the month that was officially dedicated to that cause, but I thought about this the other day and decided it was worth blogging about. Better late than never, right? It deserves my time and my attention; and, like many issues in my life, if I tell someone I'm going to do something, I'm more likely to actually do it.

First some facts:

  • Every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • This year more than 211,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected in the United States.
  • One woman in eight who lives to age 85 will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of in women between the ages of 40 and 55.
  • 1,600 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 400 are predicted to die.
  • Seventy percent of all breast cancers are found through breast self-exams. Not all lumps are detectable by touch. Regular mammograms and monthly breast self-exams are recommended.
  • Eight out of ten breast lumps are not cancerous. If you find a lump, don't panic-call your doctor for an appointment.
  • Mammography is a low-dose X-ray examination that can detect breast cancer up to two years before it is large enough to be felt.
  • When breast cancer is found early, the five-year survival rate is 96%. This is good news! Over 2 million breast cancer survivors are alive in America today.
Please note the statistic on breast cancer in men. Although the awareness ribbons which adorn this post are pink and although the vast majority of people who get breast cancer are women, 25% of men diagnosed with breast cancer will die from it. The National Breast Cancer Foundation on their Myths about Breast Cancer page recommends that men perform regular self-examinations also.

I have two friends--close friends, not just acquaintances--who have been diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. One friend discovered at age 30. It is almost 13 years later and she is still cancer free. The other friend found out she had breast cancer at age 48. It is about 1 1/2 years later and she is cancer free. This disease has struck close enough to home that I should not allow myself the luxury of waiting another month to begin a habit which might save my life. At 42, I am fully in that group of women, ages 40-55, in which breast cancer is the leading cause of death.

One thing I have bemoaned over the last few years is the amount of routine maintenance it requires as I get older to feel and look good: allergy medication, CPAP machine, exercise, diet, skin care, vitamins, hair color. The list just gets added to every year. Surely I have room in my schedule for one 10 minute exam performed once a month.

A promise to myself:

I commit to performing regular breast self-examinations. I will hold myself accountable by posting BSE at the end of the first post I write after the exam. Hopefully, in addition to maintaining accountability for me, it will serve as a reminder to other women and men to do the same.

Facts for this post were obtained from the website of The National Breast Cancer Foundation. Other online resources include but are in no way limited to the following groups: BreastCancer.org and The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Pink ribbon icons were obtained at Pink Ribbons a site which provides copyright free breast cancer awareness logos. The Pink Ribbons site is part of the Download Pink Ribbon page operated by Carol Sutton. She collects "free, copyright free pink ribbon symbols, graphic, icons, images, pink ribbon visual material and the like for the use and promotion of raising awareness of breast cancer." If I understand correctly, these symbols may not be commercially used.

Until tomorrow,


28 down, 2 to go


Anonymous said...

Great post. Even though it's not October, it's still good to be reminded the rest of the year.

I'm guilty of not performing BSE's. My excuse is that you have to do them 7-10 days after your period and I always forget to count. I also tell myself that I'm 28 and not really at a high risk yet. Not great excuses, but they're the ones I'm using. Hopefully seeing your monthly reminder will remind me (if the timing's right, that it).

I'm surprised that 25% of men die from breast cancer. I mean, it's harder to catch in women because a small lump would be hard to see through the normal breast tissue. I would have guessed that a man would be more easily able to notice an unusual lump on their flat chests.

Mary-LUE said...


I think because so few men get it, there is even less awareness of the need. Men also don't get mammograms or, I might be wrong here, exams at their annual physicals.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm thinking that wouldn't they just see an odd lump and get it checked out? I guarantee that if I saw a lump on my body, I'd have it looked at.

But then again, men are men and generally stubborn about going to the doctor. Case in point: Lance Armstrong's grapefruit sized testicular tumor.

Anonymous said...

I'm guilty of forgetting to do the BSE too... thanks for reminding me.

atypical said...

Thanks for this. I am sporadically guilty myself, and my aunt died from breast cancer.

Maybe your reminders will help us all. And hey, since you like helping people, we will be your motivation to remember so that you can remind us!

Beck said...

That is so scary - I can't even wrap my mind around it. Because breast cancer doesn't run in my family, I tend to push aside the possibility - thanks for the reminder to be more responsible.

Her Bad Mother said...

Thanks for the reminder. it's too easy to be lax about this.

Anonymous said...

Good points. Good post.

I'm on hold for a mammo until the nursing is 100% ended. And the BSEs are frequent but a bit misleading.

However, I'll get back to it...

Keep the reminders and info going!

MarillaAnne said...

Hey! I'm very pleased to tell you that I finally got to post re your BSE idea. I told everybody I thought you were onto a great idea. In fact I think it's such a great idea that I've told everybody to come tell you to turn it into a meme! You can read all the gory details ... Friends Send Notes: Mary

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.