October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Sadly, many people focus less on taking action than they do on creating awareness. A lot of women fear a visit to the gynaecologist, yet one visit could be the difference between early and late detection of breast, uterine, cervical, ovarian, vaginal or anal cancer.
This is what Kirsty Bisset, a model, writer and self-proclaimed patron princess, had to say about her recent visit.
Truth be told, I love my boobs. What? I do. Nothing wrong with a little boob love. We should all love our chest extensions. So, in the spirit of breast cancer awareness month, I decided to go for a mammogram at my gynae.
As most women do, I decided to go for a full check-up and include a pap smear in there, too. And yes, I still pronounce ‘pap’ like ‘pap en wors.’ No judgies.
Why am I telling you this? Because I have seen and heard too many women say that they are too scared to visit their gynae or that they don’t know what to expect. I’m calling bullshit. Here you have it. A blow-by-blow of an annual check-up at your gynae.
I visited Dr. T. Berios at Umhlanga Medical Centre. Having been to a female gynae four times prior to this, I was curious to know what visiting a male doctor would be like. There’s nothing to worry about, ladies. Male or female, these doctors have the same qualifications and know exactly what to look for. You will be asked some standard questions such as drinking or smoking habits (I did not underplay my Patron addiction), any allergies as well as family history. While you’re sitting there, ask questions. Ask whatever you like. They have heard it all before.
Then, step into their office…
First thing’s first, you adorn your gorgeous body with a gown that even Beyonce would struggle to make look good. If you can feel sexy in that thing, it’s half the battle won.
Then, lie down so your doctor can feel you up. That’s the first part of a breast exam. He/she will feel for any irregularities, such a lumps, change in size, darkened areolas, or abnormal discharge. Ask your doctor to teach you how to examine your own breasts and do so once a month. It won’t take more than two minutes. Breast cancer is shit. For the patient as well as for the family. Just ask me.
Unfortunately, my doctor expressed extreme concern about the fact that my Mom and her Mom had cancer, so I have to go one step further and have an ultrasound done on my boobies as well as a genetics test. You know that whole thing Angelina Jolie went through? That test. Am I nervous? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but I take comfort in arming myself with knowledge and taking the necessary precautions, should it be necessary. I’ll keep you posted.
I did ask my doctor if there was an increase in the amount of women who had come in for mammograms during October due to breast cancer awarenss month. I was pretty bleak when the answer was ‘no’. Awareness is one thing, but action needs to follow!
Right, we then move on the nether regions.
The reasons for a pap smear can vary, but the main objective is to detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous bad guys in the cervical canal. It isn’t comfortable. They have to scrape the inside (I know), but it’s over in 15 seconds (and you’re put off natural birth for life). The sample is then sent in for tests and you should receive these within three working days. One of the bad guys is HPV – Human Papillomavirus. This thing is a bitch. It can survive undetected on your skin and under your fingernails. That means that there is no way to know who has been in contact with it and it can be transferred between men and women. HPV can cause diseases such as cervical/vaginal/anal cancer, and genital warts. Ladies, 5,743 South African women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually. You can prevent this with three injections. I had my first one yesterday, will have the second next month, and the third four months from then. That’s all it takes. Visit the HPV vaccine website to find out more. The costs range from about R1,800 to R2,700. Don’t get me started on the fact that they should be free *side-eyes SA Health Department*
The last part of the exam involves an ultrasound of your insides. This is more comfortable, I assure you! Your doctor will check on your uterus, bladder, and ovaries to ensure that everything is safe and sound. I let out an unimaginably obnoxious laugh when my doctor said my uterus was perfectly prepped for babies.
And that’s it. Just half an hour out of your day to possibly save your life.
Doing anything that involves a “what if…” is difficult. What if they find a lump? What if I test positive? What if I have to endure the excrutiating hell that is chemo and put my family through that? I urge you to think about other “what ifs” such as “What if I had found out sooner?”
Read more posts by Kirsty on her blog here