Many women don’t do breast self-exams regularly for a wide variety of reasons. Some of us claim not to have time, while others have trouble remembering to do it. Some of us think our breast cancer risk is low enough that we’re never going to find anything. Others say their breasts are naturally lumpy, making breast exams difficult. Others still are squeamish about touching themselves in the manner required for a proper self-exam.
Christie Cantara, of Falmouth, Maine, admits that she was among the group of women who didn’t give herself breast self-exams on a regular basis and didn’t think it was a big deal. She learned the error of her ways, however, when she randomly decided to do a self-exam in the shower and found a very prominent lump.
The lump was only about the size of a “frozen pea,” according to Cantara, but it was very clearly there—so much so that she didn’t even have to press down very hard to find it. She found it painful to press on the lump and decided to see a doctor to find out more about it.
Cantara’s obstetrician suggested she get a mammogram, but the mammogram results came back clear, failing to detect the lump at all. Luckily, because she had done a self-exam, Cantara and her doctor knew that she needed to undergo more testing to determine whether the lump was cancerous, and it turned out that it was. She spent the next year undergoing treatment—including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
“Had I not done that self-exam that day, who knows what might have happened,” Cantara says. “Things could have been much worse by the time we figured out what was going on.”
Now that she’s a six-year cancer survivor, Cantara has a message of tough love for those who dislike performing self-exams on their breasts. “If you’re having inhibitions about doing your self-breast exams, you need to get over it.”
Another option for people who are squeamish about self-exams, she says, is to have someone you’re close to perform the exam for you.
“I can see where people would feel funny about doing it,” Cantara acknowledges. “But at the same time, it’s so important to be proactive in your health. Doing a self-breast exam saved my life.”
Hear more about Cantara’s cancer story and her insights into self-breast exams in the video below.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?