An interesting transition moving from the US to Europe is adjusting to the barrage of super sexualized images. Boobs are everywhere. On TV and in advertisements but in general people here don’t seem to care. It is an accepted part of the culture and female anatomy that make them shake their heads at our “nipple gate” (Janet Jackson, Superbowl 2004) fascinated country. In a very broad way it can boil down to the history and foundations of the countries/regions. The US has a foundation in puritanical roots with religious refugees trying to escape persecution in Europe. So, we are hyper sensitive to sexualized images but since we haven’t had recent wars fought on our soil we are less sensitive to violence. Flip that around for Europeans…with world war I and II still within the last 100 years they don’t accept violent images as cavalierly as Americans do but a little extra skin and topless beaches? No problem. Again, these are sweeping generalizations but provide a bit of a foundation for the two perspectives. And I have had a crash course in the different approach to modesty as I have worked my way through the various medical appointments here. Let’s just say I’ve had to (ahem) embrace the phrase “This situation is only as embarrassing as I make it…because no one else cares.”
So what are boobs? They are these weird lumps of fat and glands that can have a hypnotic effect on men and can be taxing and terrifying to women. We enhance them, we flatten them, we push them up, we criticize them, we compare them, we can sometimes even name them, but ultimately they are designed for milk production…and unfortunately very frequently can cause big problems to our health. The statistics are now 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer within their lifetime. That doesn’t mean 1 in 8 women that walk into a Dr.’s office on a daily basis will come out with a cancer diagnosis but over the course of their life will be confronted with this disease. And it doesn’t always happen when you are older, or if there is a history in your family – obviously, that is why I am now writing this.
The question I get most often now from women is “How did you know? How did you find it?” Here’s the answer…I found it with a self-exam. I am a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha fraternity and our philanthropy is the Susan G. Komen foundation so I have been surrounded by “how to” do a self breast exam for over 10 years. Just because I know I should, does that mean I did regularly? No. Because I’m young, healthy, there’s no history in my family…blah, blah, blah. But I think the reason why I didn’t is because at some point I heard a damaging statement “if a tumor is big enough to feel in a self exam…it’s already too late.” So, I suppose I thought why bother. That may have been true years ago, but it is DEFINITELY not true now.
Our best defense is early detection, and I truly thank God for prompting me to check in February. There is a lot that can be done now. But you have to catch it. And the thing that regular breast exams give you is a reference for when things change. It was hard for me to do a self exam because my breast were naturally lumpy and bumpy and it can be difficult to know what is a problem. Check with a Dr. on what the normal state of your breasts is and then check every month to see if something changes. Because that is what I felt. Something different. Very different. A mass that I could move around. All I can say is that you’ll know the difference when you feel it (obnoxious right? Sorry) but you have to have the baseline reference to do it. Here is a link on the proper steps to perform a self exam…please forward to all the women you know and love.