Spread the word: early detection of a breast lump can save a life

Editorial & Opinion, Wednesday, October 31, 2007, p. A8

With the change of seasons, I recently switched purses, which necessitated a major sorting and downsizing of the contents of my handbag. I found three lipsticks that I had completely forgotten about, and realized that half the space in my bag was being taken up by my keys and their respective key chains.

So I’ve now culled my key chain collection back to only three key rings: an LED light (great for reading maps in the car or distracting small children); an easy-open key ring (to keep my car key in the ignition and unlock the house for something I forgot); and a Thingamaboob. The last one is not as functional as the first two, but it remains my favourite.

On the www.cancer.ca/thingamaboob website, the description is a “funky yet educational key chain that shows women how important screening is in the early detection of breast cancer.” Basically, the Thingamaboob is a series of increasingly larger pink beads, the smallest representing the average size lumps found by getting regular mammograms, up to the largest bead shows the average size lump found by women themselves. That final bead is almost 2.5cm in diameter!

The Canadian Cancer Society has recently stated that routine breast self-exams are passé and instead you should know your breasts, but haven’t endorsed how to do it. So, I’ve compiled my top five ways to get to know your breasts: (5) take them to dinner and a movie; (4) ask them about their hopes and dreams; (3) buy them flowers; (2) ask about their day and don’t interrupt (no matter how long or boring the answer); and the #1 way to get to know your breasts – offer them a massage with no expectations. Get to know what is normal for you and make sure you alert your doctor of any changes especially dimpling, lumps, redness or puckering in the skin.

I received my Thingamaboob from a girlfriend working at the Canadian Cancer Society and thanked her for the cool key chain. Then I read the pamphlet. What a piece of marketing genius: a mildly racy name, a punny slogan “You are your best key to breast health,” and the fact that they are fashionable and at a reasonable price point.

The packaging warns that it is “delicate and meant for decorative purposes only . . . Pulling or extensive handling may cause the Thingamaboob to break.” Are we still talking about the key chain, or have we moved on to “get to know your breasts” instructions?

I am a fan of the Thingamaboob, and have given over 20 of them to my best girlfriends and family members. They are a nice any-day gift and can quickly spruce up gift-wrapping or a hostess gift (try tying one on to the neck of a wine bottle with pink ribbon). Since I sound like a crafty maven already, I won’t stop there: Thingamaboobs are also a great party favour for women attending baby/wedding showers.

Included with the Thingamaboob, is a small leaflet of breast health facts, and helpful resources with links to facts online, including:

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second most common cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

An estimated 22,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,300 will die in Canada in 2007.

During her lifetime, a woman has a one in nine chance of developing breast cancer and a one in 27 chance of dying of the disease.

October is breast cancer awareness month and earlier detection may mean that chemo or radiation therapies are not required, so spread the word.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that: women 50 and over have a mammogram once every 2 years; women 40 and over have a clinical breast exam by a health professional at least every two years; and that women 20 and over know their breasts and are able to recognize changes.

Many of us didn’t Run for the Cure, but we can afford a $5 fundraising key chain for ourselves, for a gift, or even as a funky Christmas tree ornament.

And yes, I noticed that The Sault Star did not cover either of the major breast cancer fundraisers in town this year, including the Run for the Cure (which raised $64,000), and the Canadian Cancer Society’s “In the Pink, 4th Annual Grand Dessert” (raising over $15,000). Bad form indeed.

If you are interested in supporting breast cancer research by buying a Thingamaboob for $5 they can be purchased from your local Canadian Cancer Society office in Ontario (253-4781), Saskatchewan, and Alberta, or shipped anywhere in Canada for orders of five or more. More information about breast health is available online at www.cancer.ca or by calling 1-888-939-3333.

Nadine Robinson is a freelance writer and a marketing & communications consultant. Her column appears every other Wednesday. Contact her at the.ink.writer@gmail.com

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