It’s that time of year again when we are inundated with pink ribbons, races for “The Cure,” and campaigns to get screened for breast cancer. We hear the tragic stories of breast cancer striking young women. We see statistics stating that breast cancer affects one in eight women and is the number-two cancer killer of women. And we’re taught that to stay healthy we must be on a “seek and destroy” mission filled with tests, treatments, and technologies.
Breast tenderness and lumpiness occur commonly among women everywhere, either cyclically or episodically, for periods of varying duration, before, during, or after the childbearing years. Breast pain (also known as mastalgia or mastodynia) is the number one reason why women visit clinics specializing in breast care and is present in 45 percent of the women who visit these clinics. But it’s so common that almost all general physicians see women with this problem.
For decades, women have been encouraged to examine their breasts regularly as a way to find breast cancer at the earliest possible stage, get it treated early, and thus save their lives. This has led to a “search-and-destroy” approach to breast exams that encourages you to make your hands into mine sweepers in search of something that may kill you. No wonder so many women skip this routine but end up feeling guilty as a result.