How to Not Be Afraid of Checking Your Breasts
In connection with breast cancer awareness month, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading women’s health care provider and advocate, has launched a campaign encouraging women under 40 to take control of their breast health.
The campaign comes less than a year from the massive controversy surrounding efforts by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to strip funding for Planned Parenthood for breast health services and serves as a reminder of all the health care services the organization provides.
“Too often women under 40 dismiss a lump as something that does not need attention, or the fear of what an abnormality could be becomes paralyzing,” said Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Our goal is to break down those myths and fears, and provide women with more information so that they can be their own best breast expert. This video helps do that.”
In connection with the campaign, Planned Parenthood released a video last week featuring Gabrielle Union, star of the new BET drama Being Mary Jane and Planned Parenthood breast health advocate, discussing the need for women to move beyond their fear when they find an abnormality in their breast.
“Fear is what prevented my dear friend Kristen from getting a breast abnormality checked out —and that fear cost Kristen her life,” said Union. “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time to take action and educate ourselves and our friends, so that if something doesn’t feel right, you talk to a doctor or nurse as soon as possible.”
Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses play a unique role in delivering health care to young women, as 94 percent of Planned Parenthood patients are under the age of 40. Campaigns like this one can help young women understand the screening that’s best for them as well as the factors that can reduce their breast cancer risk, factors that include getting regular exercise and limiting alcohol intake.
The campaign highlights certain breast health truths that many young women tend to brush off. For example, clinical breast exams are the first line of defense for providers in detecting breast cancer in most young women. Each year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide nearly 750,000 breast exams. Like most ob/gyns and primary care physicians, if a Planned Parenthood health care provider finds an abnormality during an exam, the patient is referred to a breast specialist for further examination, which may include diagnostic tests, like an ultrasound or biopsy.
Planned Parenthood’s newly established diagnostic grant program helps to cover the costs of these tests for patients when possible, as the tests can be costly, especially for uninsured and low-income women. To date, 47 Planned Parenthood affiliates have applied for and received funding to expand their breast health services to cover the costs of diagnostic follow up care.
That care is made possible in part by grants from the Komen Foundation, a fact that makes the political nature of their controversy all the more apparent and distressing. Breast cancer prevention and treatment should not be up for political debate, and Planned Parenthood’s campaign reminds us why: women’s lives are on the line when it is.
Photo from Fibonacci Blue via flickr.