By Nancy Black
It’s a silly children’s joke. “How do you scare a bee?” The unknowing subject of said joke responds, “I don’t know. How?”
“Boo bee!” the jokester responds, as he or she pokes the other person’s chest. Funny, right?
What’s not funny is when you have to take your boo bees to get a mammogram. It’s actually very scary. It’s one of those potentially life changing moments where you could think you’re cancer free as you walk in but, within a few hours, find out you are not.
I went for my yearly mammogram this past week and counted eight women, including me, there for the procedure, too. That means one of us in that waiting room might have gotten really bad news that afternoon. According to BreastCancer.org, “About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 13 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.”
My grandmother had breast cancer, and I have a very powerful childhood memory of watching her as she looked at herself in the mirror after she got home from the hospital. She looked solemn but nevertheless, grateful to be alive.
After that, my mother instilled in my sister and me the importance of getting mammograms as soon as it was age appropriate. Studies show a woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a close relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has had it. But, even more startling, about 85 percent of breast cancers happen in women with no family history of breast cancer.
And for you male readers, don’t think just because your boo bees aren’t as big as women’s, men can’t develop breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen Foundation estimates that 2,650 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
The good news is — mammograms have come a long way, baby! Gone are the old flat trays, which pressed the breast being imaged down as flat as a pancake against a cold metal board. No more having the patient awkwardly stretch their arms out of the way of the huge machine while holding their breath and trying not to move.
Welcome to the new world of the SmartCurve mammogram. I couldn’t find out who invented the curve technology but, my bet is, it was a woman. Regardless of its origin, I am ever so thankful for it. Most local mammography centers are using the patented design these days. It has a curved tray, which cushions the breast more comfortably while being squished, and still allows for proper imaging.
Almost better than the fancy new curved tray is the fact that, ever since 2010, the Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover mammograms (with no co-payment) every 1-2 years for women 40 and older. I used to have to fork over between $200 and $300 every time I had a breast screening.
Speaking of money. You don’t have to be a woman with breast cancer to care about finding a cure. October if Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The mission of all those fighting for the cause is to end breast cancer. Please help, if you can, financially or through volunteer work.
The Susan G. Komen MORE THAN PINK Walk is on Oct. 23. Participants can walk in-person or virtually to raise funds for breast cancer research. More information can be found on the MORE THAN PINK Facebook page.