Essay Non-Fiction posted January 2, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level
breast cancer detection

Grin and Bare It

by Writingfundimension

My first date with my husband was our senior prom. In fact, I barely knew him. But he loves to tell me that he had his eye on me for some time, particularly on the part of my anatomy that he still loves - my ta ta's, rack, boobs, honkers...well you get the picture.

I remember when they were as elegant and light as a perfectly composed souffle. But after age forty five, the 'girls' decided to go rogue on me, insisting I get rid of the underwires and embrace my middle-age spread. Coincidentally, I  also started having regular mammograms.

Excuse me, but anyone smaller in size than a DD gets limited sympathy from me for the abuse they feel is inflicted on their breasts in a mammogram. Only large breasted women, as we are politely referred to, can understand how frightening it is to watch mammary tissue inflate like the Hindenberg as a metal vice attempts to pound your breast into the shape of a crepe.

And the result of all this torture for women with big boobs? A less than perfect picture due to the dense nature of copious breast tissue. In other words, they can't see all that's in there due to the fact my breasts are TOO FAT.

Despite limitations in the case of large, dense breasts, I never miss getting a routine mammogram. I've been lucky to have had several small lesions, called calcifications, detected near the breast surface and removed before they could become cancerous. And it is especially important for women like myself to perform monthly self-examinations.

But, I'm terribly lax about doing this due to the fact that I always find suspicious areas. When I complained about this to my physician, she informed me that's because I have fibrocystic breasts. When I asked her to kindly elucidate, she smiled and said "You have lumpy breasts."

No shit! I'm going to drop a couple of hundred bucks today for you to confirm that my breast tissue feels like bubble wrap that I can't pop?!

Recently I read an article that could provide a good alternative to women with mammogram phobia. In some cases, MRI's are being used for breast diagnostics. Fox News reported: "Some recent studies, conducted by the National Cancer Institute, found that MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) was not only more effective than mammography, but also better than ultrasound or other clinical breast exams."

Having had MRIs for other diagnostic purposes, I feel I must warn you that the pain of a mammogram might be preferable to the sensory replication of lying motionless in the middle of a construction site. However, one can insist on the happy juice, Versed, to alleviate the anxiety of the MRI and I highly recommend this.

To date, the medical profession has some reservations about the wide-spread use of MRI for breast cancer detection. Dr. Michael Schnall, professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania writes, "I don't recommend all women, but I recommend women who are at high risk{for breast cancer}...Studies show that an MRI can pick up more cancer. Right now, it's too costly to do study on the benefits on the general population, but it has proven good at detecting cancer."

Be aware that an average out-of-pocket cost for mammogram is $100.00, compared to $1,000.00, for an MRI. And the latter may need pre-certifying by your insurance company. However, if you live in an area with advanced medical care or are near a University, it might be worth your while to check into having the MRI procedure for breast cancer detection. 

For most women, no matter the breast size, good breast care includes routine mammography and regular self-examination - the best place for this is while taking a shower. Never let an area that changes go un-examined by competent medical personnel for more than two menstrual cycles*.  And if you are considered too young for a mammogram, but have a family history of breast cancer, you should seek a second opinion about whether it would be advisable for you to begin getting regular mammograms before the generally-recommended age of forty. 

So, here's my New Year's resolutions: Follow my doctor's advice to get periodic mammograms; pick one day a month, the same day each month, to do a thorough self-examination of my breasts AND remember to be grateful that, by the grace of God, I have them both.


*Lumps that do not move underneath your fingertips should be promptly examined by a health professional.

At one time, breast cancer was a rare occurence in males. That is no longer the case. Monthly self-examination and mammogram to check any questionable areas of tissue is recommended for men as well as women.

All quotes courtesy of

Awesome artwork by Belgrano: ab2. Thanks!!
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