Let's Talk Tatas

Chances are, that if you’ve got a bosom, you’ve wondered about how “your girls” are.

And if you’re a guy, chances are you have sister, friend, wife, etc who could benefit from a “Hello- it’s time to get serious about your breast health” pep talk! So pass this along their way ;)

For the past few years, I have been dealing with a rather large lump in my left armpit. With a history of breast cancer and lymphoma in my family, this was always something of concern. Even more concerning than the thought of being surrounded by clowns. Shudder- clowns.

This is me in 2011. You may be wondering why on earth I am standing like this. Well I was waiting for my hubby to set up a self timer and my arm is out like that pretending like he was there with me! Anywayignore the fact that I majorly clash- but this gives you an idea of what I'm talking about:

I went for an ultrasound in 2009, and it showed that all was clear in terms of the dreaded ‘C’-word (no not that C word)... Cancer. Which is great, obviously. But I have never been able to get to the bottom of it…. And it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind (or more so in the front of my armpit!).

After seeking out many holistic options to deal with this not-so-fun-irregular shaped mass, I decided last month to make an appointment with a new Medical Doctor to get her perspective on it.

She told me it was lipoma, which is a non-cancerous lump, usually caused by an overgrowth of fat cells. Her solution- make an appointment with a plastic surgeon and have it removed. This seemed a little extreme. First of all, I had a feeling it wasn’t “fat cells”.  No matter what my weight has been, this agglomeration in my pit remained one size. But I wanted to keep an open mind and I entertained the idea….

Then, she did a breast exam and told me I had “caffeine cysts” and that I should have a mammogram. Holy Smokes, Batman! What was going on here? I felt that I was “too young” to have a mammogram.

I asked her if this was related to the lump in the armpit and she said no- that was completely different. She just wanted me to have a mammogram because of these cysts. I was told to decrease my coffee intake (which is only 2-3 times per week). It just didn’t seem to make sense…..

Breast Health Options

Knowing that this wasn’t something to just shrug off, I investigated my other options to ensure that my top-half girly parts are a-OK.

When I was a the Weston A Price Conference earlier this month, I attended a lecture by Dr. Tom Cowan where he said that mammograms miss 25% of breast cancer as they do not detect any lumps that you can feel. This shocked me.

I wanted to find a way that I could be responsible for my breast health, but not have to deal with radiation or compression.

*DISCLAIMER* I am in no way saying to not have a mammogram. I just believe that there are additional tools to assist in diagnosing that women should be aware of!

What is Infrared Breast Screening?

With Infrared (IR) Breast Screening, you get a great idea of what is actually happening in your breasts with no nasty side effects.

IR measures functional changes in the breast. Basically, it looks at the blood vessels to see if there are any “hot spots”, compared to the surrounding tissue, which indicates breeding ground for a tumor.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 2.08.58 PM

In a recent study, the role of IR in breast cancer detection was evaluated and the conclusion was that it is a valuable tool, especially for women with dense breasts[1]. This is especially true when used in conjunction with other modalities (mammogram, ultrasound, etc).

My appointment was with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Pierre Bachand, at his clinic in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

The process was very simple- all I had to do was sit in a chair (shirtless), put my hands on my neck, sit up straight and then the IR camera does the work to snap a few different angles of the breasts. Easy.

This was then followed by a physical breast exam, to ensure that physically things matched what Dr. Bachand saw on the pictures.

After both of these tests were done, Dr. Bachand and I spent some time going over the pictures and discussing any questions/concerns I had. It is a pretty neat feeling when a health practitioner really listens to you, and you don’t feel rushed to leave.

So what is the lump in my armpit?

In short: extra breast tissue.

The good news: Dr. Bachand believes it will go away once I breastfeed! This made me extremely happy and excited to test the theory (*cough, hint to my husband, cough*).

Mammary

This extra breast tissue lies exactly on the mammary line (see diagram). Between it’s location and the touch of it (soft, no hard spots, etc), he is confident that this is what it is. And since it’s on the mammary line, once I breastfeed, there’s a possibility it will shrink down to nothing (fingers crossed!).

The remainder of my scan also looked completely clear. High Fives!

I now have a base line of my breast health, and am planning to go for yearly check ups just to keep on top of things!

When I asked him about the supposed caffeine cysts my MD “discovered”, he explained to me that he didn’t particularly care for that term. In reality, that’s just the way my breasts are and there’s nothing to worry about. This was good to hear, and I trust this man since he has been in the boob business for over a decade!

And as a bonus, I can start enjoying my occasional organic-fair trade, freshly-ground coffee again. Yes, I am admittedly a bit of a coffee snob…

Next Steps

If you’re anything like me, you have NOT been keeping up with monthly self-check exam. Well put it on the to-do list, ladies!

Let’s take advantage of the different modalities that are out there- consider your options for IR Screening, mammograms, ultrasounds, and self-breast exams. Seriously ladies, get on it.

I would highly recommend looking in to getting an IR, no matter what your age, to get a baseline of your breast health.

The information gathered from this is a valuable tool in preventing future illness! This is a big deal- so what are you waiting for?


Sources:

[1]{C} http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18809055

Infrared Image Take from Bachand & Associates

Mammary Line Picture Taken from Mammary Gland Laboratory