If You Don’t Have One, then Shut the Hell Up.
If it weren’t for the website from whence I borrowed the above photo, I might have lost my mind entirely over the past few months. You’ve got to love a site called Government Free VJJ. The site tagline says it all: “Dear Men in Congress: If we knit you a uterus, will you stay out of ours?” Girl-lilla warfare at its finest. I encourage you to visit and enjoy a nice sardonic chuckle. Then grab some yarn.
Well, let’s see…where to begin? In the last several weeks, we’ve seen countless news reports about American male legislators working their flabby, mostly-white butts off in an attempt to limit women’s access to healthcare. First there was the Congressional panel that conducted hearings on birth control, which included exactly zero members of the female persuasion. Then there was the attempt to defund women’s health services in Texas — the homebase, not coincidentally, of Klan Komen. Plus there were legislative attempts, in more states than I can keep up with, to limit or discourage access by granting ‘personhood’ to our ova, and forcing vaginal ultrasounds on women seeking legal abortions in Virginia, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Florida, to name a mere few. Oh, and the Republican Presidential Candidate-Apparent, the Mittster, apparently wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and get rid of Planned Parenthood. If you can stand any more info, there’s a cogent reading list on Government Free VJJ’s website.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently purchased Instagram, from which a bunch of French dudes spawned Boobstagram. Their tagline: “Montrer ses seins sur le web c’est bien, les montrer à son médecin c’est mieux.” En anglais: “Showing your boobs on the web is good, showing them to your doctor is better.” All this is supposed to encourage young women in particular to be ‘aware’ of their breasts and ‘prevent’ breast cancer. In the translated words of les gars de Boobstagram, “Glamorous, audacious, original, whatever the means, as long as the objective is fulfilled: To stay alive.” Très noble, dudes. But, je suis désolée to tell you that we don’t actually have any tools as yet to prevent breast cancer. D’accord, c’est domage, but, hey, c’est la vie, n’est-ce pas? Also, while I was unable to find any concrete statistics on this, a somewhat cursory search of the web’s response to these countless images of young female cleavage suggested that it has mostly provided another source of tit-illation pour les dudes. If you think I’m biased in that assessment, Casey Chan of Gizmodo wrote a brief piece about it, headlined, Boobstagram Is How You Will Spend the Rest of Your Day. In it, Chan, remarking on why Zuckerberg purchased Instagram, says that Boobstagram “might be the reason why Zuck splurged a fresh billi on it. It might be the reason why Instagram exists. It might be the reason why we exist.” There is no mention in the piece, nor in the comments following it, of breast cancer. Nuff said.
I briefly considered uploading this image on Boobstagram, but I was too busy reorganizing my sock drawer.
Porn for the Cure
If mere tit-illation isn’t enough for you, how about pornography? Okay, well, not exactly, but another recent news item, from the “You can’t make this stuff up” category, reported that last Tuesday, April 24th, online-streaming porn site Pornhub.com [and no, I’m not providing a link] teamed up with “award-winning porn star,” Bree Olson, to provide free breast exams in a bus in downtown New York. Yeah, really. I shudder to contemplate what sorts of awards they dish out to porn stars. And why.
It’s not quite as bad as it sounds. They did have “a team of medical professionals” to carry out these exams, including Dr. David Shafer, a diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, reportedly voted a “TOP DOC for Botox, Liposuction, Tummy Tuck, and Facelift,” who “was on board to lecture customers on how to conduct examinations of their own and offered his own screening services free of charge.” What a guy. Wonder if Olson is one of his patients. Olson herself told Fox News that she was motivated to do this because the mother of a close friend died in her thirties of breast cancer. Explaining Pornhub’s rationale for the bus, Olson remarked, “They figured, you know, breasts are a large part [no pun intended, I’m sure] of our industry, and the two would kind of coincide.” Heart-warming, isn’t it? One site which reported on this story, called Peeperz — trust me, do not visit — also included a video of a lifelike-down-to-the-tanlines, animated 3D woman-droid performing a breast self-exam. Nice that they’re so public-spirited. And you only need one hand to click ‘Play.’
Meanwhile, Back in the Un-Sexy Land of Cancer…
Aside from the blatantly obvious, one of the things that aggravates me about this boob dross is that, once again, it pushes the prevention myth. Last time I checked, which was earlier this morning, we don’t have anything yet that works to prevent breast cancer. Yes, there is research underway on vaccines. There’s a recent report here, but you have to copy & paste the link to get it to work: http://news.health.com/2012/04/02/early-study-hints-that-breast-cancer-vaccine-might-work. Other studies are identifying biomarkers that may signal future breast cancer risk and lead to prevention, but it will be years before any of these projects yields something usable.
Another thing that bugs me is that this kind of thing may add more confusion over the whole breast-self-exam issue. There have been many studies published over the last several years suggesting that formal BSE’s don’t work any better than informal ones, nor do they reduce breast cancer mortality. But conclusive assertions are complicated by study limitations, the differences between self-exams and clinical breast exams performed by physicians, and exams performed in conjunction with or without mammograms and MRIs. Not to mention the age of the woman performing the exam, her breast tissue density, and a host of other perplexing items. Perhaps the most coherent write-up I found on the subject this morning is this post written in 2008 by Dr. Susan Love, the week after the Cochrane Collaboration released an analysis of the research that had been done to date. Her post is called Breast Self-Exam: What The Research Tells Us. More recent studies are ongoing, but inconclusive. The bottom line still seems to be that we should be checking our breasts periodically for anomalies, but that we don’t have to do it formally. And if we’re not sure what we’ve found, we should see a doctor.
And in the meantime, last October, GE obtained FDA approval for new technology that provides contrast-enhanced spectral mammography. Like other contrast imaging, it requires the IV injection of a contrast substance, but evidently, unlike CT scans and MRIs, fewer images are needed, are done more quickly, are analyzed immediately, and will ultimately be less costly than CT or MRI imaging. Efficacy studies have demonstrated improved clarity, especially in dense breast tissue, over conventional mammography, but it was difficult to find clear information about longitudinal comparisons. CESM has recently been launched at the Pink Lotus Breast Health Center in Beverly Hills. In this video, Dr. Kristi Funk explains that this technology could eliminate the need for follow-up breast MRIs after a suspicious diagnostic mammogram, but does not suggest that it will replace screening mammography. She recommends it for high-risk women, those who are BRCA positive or have dense breast tissue. Because it can be done immediately after a diagnostic mamm, in about ten to fifteen minutes, and significantly enhances any cancer lesions in the tissue, waiting times for results are reduced and a plan for treatment can be worked on right away.
Another imaging technology being developed is called photo-acoustic tomography, which can see cancer cells long before a discrete tumor forms, and requires no radiation at all.
For now, we can all hope that these kinds of tools will become more widely available. And genuine prevention would be nice, too. We can also hope that someday, prurience peddlers and pink-washers will not keep encouraging everyone to mistake boob awareness for cancer awareness, and that sanctimonious legislators will get over this slut obsession, admit that it takes two to have sexual intercourse, and put a Trojan on their power trips. So far, misogyny has not been proven to prevent pregnancy, poverty or cancer.
I’m going to flush my browser history now. With sulphuric acid.