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  1. #1
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Question Breast Self-Exams

    Serious answers only please. I didn't start this for it to get littered with stupid jokes.

    I want to know if the women on the forum do self-exams? I do sometimes, but more often than not, they just freak me out. Both my grandmother and great aunt had breast cancer back in the 1960s, post-menopausal, and it was not fatal for either of them.

    There's a debate about whether or not women should self-exam because of the potential to cause unnecessary anxiety, but then there's also the very real idea of early detection.
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  2. #2
    Lungs & Lips Locked Unkindloving's Avatar
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    I do so infrequently, but not intentionally or traditionally, despite how that comes off .
    It's usually an unconscious checking if I'm in the shower or laying down and bored. I think if I consciously made the effort often, I would become far too concerned over nothing. I also used to be very bad at scheduling my annual appointments.. annually. Being better at that is definitely helpful, although I should check more often than I do.
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  3. #3
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Well, at my last PAP smear, I didn't get the exam done because I showed up late. I tend to freak myself out, and I'm trying to be a big girl about it, but I really hate it.
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  4. #4
    Emerging Tallulah's Avatar
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    I'm the same, Domino. I should be more diligent, but because of my family history (both cases after menopause, though), the thought of finding something freaks me out.
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  5. #5
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Does anyone know the significance of post vs. pre-menopausal breast cancer?
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  6. #6
    Starcrossed Seafarer Aquarelle's Avatar
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    I don't do them. I used to promise myself, everytime I went for my annual physical and a doctor did a breast exam and found nothing, that I'd start doing them after that. But I've read that research about it causing unnecessary anxiety, and that really made sense to me. I have no family history of breast cancer (well, my grandma had it, but not until she was like 79, and even then it was a very treatable case), but I do have a personal history of anxiety problems, specifically about medical issues. So I figure the chance of me having breast cancer is much lower than me having unnecessary anxiety about having breast cancer. Does that make any sense? I don't know.
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  7. #7
    Emerging Tallulah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Domino View Post
    Does anyone know the significance of post vs. pre-menopausal breast cancer?
    I've always understood that family history with pre-menopausal breast cancer is a greater cause for concern. My mother's post-menopausal breast cancer, for instance, occurred after hormone replacement therapy, which is also thought to be a big possible cancer causer. So it's harder to know how much of a role family history played, and how much age and other factors played. Women also develop a greater risk of breast cancer with age, as I understand it.

    I'm hoping the fact that I've always taken pretty good care of myself, exercised, etc. will work in my favor.
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  8. #8
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Makes plenty of sense. Plenty.

    A lot of things have happened lately that have weirded me out. A friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and she's doing well, but it bothered me. My father has been having skin cancer removed, and he knows at least three people being treated for cancer right now, so I guess it just hit me right between the eyes. Overloaded me. Then when I was taking a shower I felt something that I didn't recall being there, and though I didn't panic, I did internally freak out a bit.

    Talking to other ladies about it makes me less anxious and helps me build a bigger picture.
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  9. #9
    Starcrossed Seafarer Aquarelle's Avatar
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    Yeah, sometimes I get quite scared about cancer, too. I have some moles that sometimes itch, and I've asked my doctor about them several times and she always says they look fine, but I still get freaked out about it. But I also know they have been there, and been occasionally itchy, for many years, so I think if it was cancer I'd know by now.

    Part of the thing about breast exams causing unnecessary anxiety comes from exactly what you're talking about - you feel a lump and get really scared, and maybe go through some painful tests and excruciating waiting time, only to find out that it is nothing. That happened to my mom when she was pretty young.

    Of course I'm not advocating for skipping breast exams. For some people, it definitely makes sense to do them regularly. If there is a family history, for example. But for me, at least at my age, I think the anxiety causes me more trouble. Maybe I'll reconsider when I'm 35 or 40.
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  10. #10
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Domino View Post
    Does anyone know the significance of post vs. pre-menopausal breast cancer?
    Quote Originally Posted by Tallulah View Post
    I've always understood that family history with pre-menopausal breast cancer is a greater cause for concern. My mother's post-menopausal breast cancer, for instance, occurred after hormone replacement therapy, which is also thought to be a big possible cancer causer.
    Tallulah is right, it's because the familial form of breast and ovarian cancer (i.e. BRCA1/2 mutations) typically causes earlier breast/ovarian cancers, often well before menopause, sometimes approaching menopause or sometimes later. However, having the mutation doesn't guarantee you'll get cancer before menopause or even at all, because there are mostly unknown environmental factors that are involved too - sometimes you need most of a lifetime to build up your "risk" (apparently the lifetime risk is only 60% even with a known mutation). Here's a random paper about it, if you're interested in the technical side of things http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19372713

    If your grandmother and great aunt are sisters/related there's a chance they carry that mutation (though you might not even have gotten it), but breast cancer is common enough that it could spontaneously appear by chance, too. It's a much bigger concern if your immediate family members are affected. I guess it's always good to think about these things, but usually your doctor will let you know when you should actually worry.

    As far as the actual topic, I don't really but I have a long-since-okayed lump that I like to check on every so often, because I'm a little paranoid. I'm not really in the most common age for developing cancer yet, though I've been on the pill for a long time already and the jury's mostly still out on whether that might increase risk (it's probably fine, but, you know).

    I work in a cancer center (research, not patients, but I still walk by the patient waiting rooms several times a day) so I have an excessive share of paranoia about it.
    -end of thread-

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