Monday, October 20, 2014

Squish Two

As a mother I know I put my own health concerns last. Often I will ignore the pain or the ache that doesn't feel just right when it is my own body. I make sure Sidney attends his well child check-ups on schedule, has all of his vaccines at the appropriate times; essentially I do everything I can to make sure he is healthy. Glenn is a harder nut to crack. The man is adverse to doctors and medicine and feels that "drinking a glass of water" is the cure for all that ails us. But because he is active duty military and is required to endure a flight physical once a year, I feel better knowing that a doctor will check him out on an annual basis. As for myself, I have noticed my own share of increased aches, pains, and things that just don't feel right in recent years and have been making a concerted effort to visit the doctor when something feels wrong with my body. But it is equally as important to not wait until something is obviously wrong before going to the doctor. As we all know, preventive health care is the key to staying healthy. And as a woman of a certain age, part of that preventive health care includes regular mammograms.

No one says they are fun. As anyone who has stood in a cold room and had their naked breast manipulated and squished between an even colder press can tell you, mammograms can be down right uncomfortable. But not enduring those brief moments of discomfort can bring about even longer lasting, and often preventable pain and suffering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, breast cancer is the second most common cancer amongst women in the United States with 211,731women being diagnosed and close to 41,000 women dying from the cancer in 2009 alone. This translates into roughly one in eight American women receiving a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. (Take a look around the room and see exactly what one in eight looks like). Family history is a strong indicator of being more susceptible to being diagnosed with breast cancer but 85% of breast cancer diagnoses occur in women without a family history of the disease. But the statistics are not all grim.  The earlier cancer is detected the greater the survival rates. There are approximately 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone. The easiest way to detect early breast cancer is through a mammogram. And thanks to increased breast cancer awareness campaigns and increased access to affordable health care, just over 61% of American women have had a mammogram. We still have a long way to go but each procedure is a step, or squish, in the right direction.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so if you are a woman, now is as good of a time as any to have your exam. Exams are covered by most health insurance plans and many communities sponsor free breast exam clinics during this month in order to make preventive health care more accessible to everyone. I've had my exam for the year and I will continue to do self exams every month until my next mammogram.  I challenge all of my woman friends to do the same.  And for my male friends, please encourage the women in your life to do it as well. Its a squish that could save a very important life.

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