My e-mail inbox is clogged with messages about breast cancer, three-day walks, pink ribbons and getting your mammograms. What is the big deal? Breast cancer is the most curable form of cancer! If I get it, I’ll just take that Herceptin drug. If that doesn’t work, I can get a mastectomy and get fantastic new ta-tas with some plastic surgery and be good to go, right? Wrong!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this month marks the 25th anniversary of the organization’s founding. Some say all of the over-exposure from organizations like National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and The Susan G. Komen Foundation are having a reverse effect and making women complacent when it comes to their breast health.

While there have been significant advances in the detection and treatment of breast cancer, there is no cure. It is for this reason that women are urged to do regular breast self-exams, have their doctors perform breast exams and for women over 40 to have an annual mammogram.

The breast self-exam, for some women, can seem awkward, but the more often you do them, the better you will understand your breasts and what you are feeling. It’s best to work with your doctor and ask questions about the textures you are feeling as well as what to look out for. A few years ago I felt something new that wasn’t quite right. I went to the doctor and she agreed that it should be looked at closer. I went for a mammogram, then an ultrasound and finally, a needle biopsy. It turned out to be nothing, but you can be sure I have not missed a mammogram since.

The mammogram can be a humbling experience. Having my boobs hoisted onto a cold glass tray and then smashed down and spread out with a see-through boobie panini press might be the weirdest thing I have ever seen. I didn’t know my boobs could look like that. Yes, it hurts a bit, but it’s over pretty quickly.

For women who have had painful mammograms which may be preventing them from continuing the annual screening, Palms Imaging Center, a local mammography center in Oxnard (www.palmsimaging.com), has a technology that they say makes mammograms more comfortable for women (they claim it reduced pain by 50 percent in three out of four women). Their MammoPad is a “soft, foam cushion that is placed on the surface of the image detector, providing women with a warmer, softer, more comfortable mammogram.”

And for women who do not have insurance and/or cannot afford a mammogram, the Ventura County Medical Resource Foundation (www.vcmrf.org) has a mobile mammogrography unit. Patients pay based on what they can afford. If you cannot pay at all, according to their Web site, “No woman will be turned away for inability to pay…” so there is really no excuse not to get this important screening exam.

So ladies, don’t be complacent, feel yourselves up and save those ta-tas!   

For more information about breast health and for tips on how to talk to your doctor, visit The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Web site at www.nbcam.org.

Lisa Snider is a local freelance writer. For more, go to www.LisaSnider.com.

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