(Photo credit: emilygoodstein)
There may be some of you out there who've managed to actively embrace the whole monthly breast-self exam process.
Do you dim the lights, turn on soft music, and perhaps chant some uplifting affirmations as you create your own empowering, nurturing self-care ritual?
Oh wait, sorry, this is Cranky Fitness. If you are that sort of person, there's a good chance you're here by mistake. Darn that Google, huh? You perhaps meant to be here instead. Buh bye!
It's more likely that you do breast self-exams dutifully but grudgingly. It's a chore, right? And a slightly creepy, anxiety-provoking one at that. But the gynecologist told you to and it's dumb to disobey your gynecologist so you sigh and get it over with.
Breast cancer is not something to mess around with and you don't want to take your chances.
Of course there is yet another subgroup of women. These women nod obediently when their gynecologists tell them to do self-exams. But then they go home and they never, ever do them. Bad, bad breast-exam slackers!
[Photo: His Noodly Appendage. Seriously.]
I have to confess I'm one of these terrible slackers.
It's just that I find self-exams awkward and stressful. I never really got the hang of the whole thing. Plus (warning: TMI alert) I have the lumpy fibrocystic kind of tissue that always feels suspect. My gynecologist can do the exam without freaking out, but I can't. So when she asks if I've been doing them every month I usually just stammer some excuse and promise to be better about it in the future.
But I'm lying! I will never be better about doing them in the future. Ain't gonna happen.
(I am, however, incredibly conscientious about getting my annual office exams and mammograms).
So a few years ago I read a surprising study that seemed to suggest that doing regular breast self-exams didn't even help women survive breast cancer. That's right--women who didn't do self-exams still had the same breast cancer survival rates as those who did.
While this information helped justify my self-exam avoidance, I didn't really believe it. I figured another study would come a long any minute and contradict it, because the result didn't seem to make any sense.
Now there's been a follow up breast self-exam study: and yet again, they found that women who did self exams had virtually no increase in cancer survival rates!
It still confounds me, because it really seems like catching cancer early is better. Certainly that should boost survival rates? But the study involved almost 400,000 women and followed them over 10 years. There were 292 breast cancer deaths in the self-exam group as opposed to 295 in the control group--the difference wasn't statistically significant. Plus, the regular breast self-exams doubled the risk of undergoing a biopsy.
So does this mean I can finally stop feeling guilty for not doing the damn things?
What do you folks think? Do you do them? Will you keep doing them?