The Breast Blog: Why Become Your Own Breast Health Ambassador: Detection

Before I prattle on with more tips and tricks for becoming your own Breast Health Ambassador, I think I'll dive a little deeper into why you'd even want to bother.

More women under 40 die of breast cancer than any other cancer. I find this disturbing. And I wondered why this might be?

For starters, mammograms in Canada are recommended for women 50 and up unless there is a family history of breast cancer. If you have a history, you can arrange to have a mammogram at any age.

In Canada, mammograms are financially covered under our public health care system which is a good thing. So this means women under 50 in Canada can see their medical health care provider at their annual medical checkup, if they have a medical health care provider, given we have a doctor shortage and if the woman books an annual checkup. And/ or women can examine their own breasts during their monthly breast self examination (BSE) if they do one and/or know how to do a BSE. So, detection for a Canadian woman under 50, with no cancer history, by someone other than herself or her partner maybe pretty unlikely.

In the U.S., mammograms are recommended for women at 40 and are paid for by private health insurance, if you have health care insurance. If you don't have health care insurance you need money (and yes you need money to have health care insurance). If you don't have money you can apply to a breast cancer foundation for assistance. Anyone in the U.S. can still do a BSE, if you know how.

Mammograms are not fool proof. Techncians report false positives...meaning, you are told you have breast cancer when you don't ...and false negatives...meaning you have breast cancer but are told you don't. Neither is very good.

Young women usually have very dense breasts which make detection difficult. And, because of this myth...."only old women get breast cancer", doctors may under diagnose...meaning, wrongly rule out breast cancer due to your age.

So to sum up, there are no reliable, scientifically approved, diagnostic (detection) methods available for anyone under or over 40. The nature of young women's breast tissue makes detection through available means difficult. In Canada, mammograms are free. In the U.S. you need insurance, money or charity. And anyone can do a BSE, if they learn how. And that's all they wrote. Not terribly inspiring considering the reality of breast cancer. But hey, seems we have male erectile dysfunction all sorted out. Thank god we put lots of money and energy into that embarrassing lifestyle killer.

To top all this off, breast health education, breast cancer prevention and what causes breast cancer are shamefully underfunded by the various foundations, charities and governments. They're all about the cure. But what if you're like me and you'd prefer not to even get breast cancer.

By becoming a Breast Health Ambassador you will inspire you to look out for you, ask more questions, press for answers and see through the pink haze. We need a safe, accurate detection method for all women. And, it's going to take many brave voices to help stop cancer before it starts.

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