When I was a teenager, I started hearing about breast self-examination. There were pamphlets passed out, with diagrams and simple instructions. All the girls were told to check themselves monthly, and if they felt something suspicious, to go get things checked out. Women learn their own bodies over time, just in the day to day experiences of life. Who better to notice random lumps and other concerning health issues? Self-examinations are the best way to spot breast cancer, we were told. It is a very feminist thing to do, to rely on yourself, to take care of...yourself. And there was something empowering about being able to take some minor control over such an awful disease.
I don't remember when mammograms became all the rage, but at some point, women were all told that the best way to find cancer was to have regular mammograms. Self-exams seemed to fall out of vogue. Women weren't supposed to trust in themselves when it came to health, not any more. Mammograms were it. Mammograms would save the day, and every single woman would be saved because science. Of course, now we know that mammograms aren't always accurate, because of things like dense breast tissue and those horrible false positives which strike terror into the bravest hearts.
In my field of school psychology, one of our mantras is to never rely on just one piece of data to make a decision. I think that's where we went wrong. Maybe we aren't supposed to rely so much on mammograms that we forget to gather other data. Perhaps women need to take a more active interest in their own health.
And conduct monthly breast self-examinations. That's how I found my cancer, two months after a clean mammogram. I found a lump, and while my initial reaction was to minimize the situation, like most women do, I did not. Being aware of your body and paying attention to changes may seem kind of boring, but it works. Breast self-examination saved my life, and that is a fact.
So feel yourself up, as the saying goes. I know that some women are embarrassed or self-conscious about their bodies. That's okay. You're not doing this in front of anyone and this is not about sexy time. It's just you and a mirror. Take control of your health. It's a small step in the right direction, but it can save your life.