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 MiB is pleased to introduce Sally E. Smith
 

Sally E. Smith is a passionate supporter and advocate for plus-size women. She has been the editor-in-chief for BBW Magazine and was the executive director of NAAFA for 11 years. She is also a long-time MiB customer and we are very excited to feature a series of her articles written from the perspective of a plus size woman. 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
 

Love Your Body, Love Your Breasts

By Sally E. Smith

In her blog, Christi’s Blog, Christi wrote about Love Your Body Day and the importance of embracing your body – whatever its size.

Not only does this mean rejecting the idealized feminine shape propagated by the media and learning to appreciate your curves, but it also means taking responsibility for your health and wellbeing.

For many of us, it’s easier to cultivate our minds and nurture our spirits than it is to safeguard our physical health. Many of us who have been plus size all of our lives emerged as adults with battered body images and low self-esteem, and feel as though we’re not worth the effort. Some of us – regardless of when we entered the community of plus-size women – experience a disconnect with our bodies that prevents us from caring for our health.

That is precisely why this month is so significant for our community. October commemorates both Love Your Body Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, two concepts that can be extremely uncomfortable for us as plus-size women.

Let’s face it: monitoring our breast health isn’t always easy. Doing monthly breast self-exams can bring up body image issues that are sometimes easier to avoid. Because many of us are large-breasted, it’s often confusing and difficult to do a thorough self-examination. And, when it comes to the other components of breast health – clinical breast exams and mammograms – our experiences with the medical profession often cause us to avoid getting the care we need.

Referring to a gynecological care study she co-authored, Pat Lyons, RN, MA, noted, “We found that as weight increased, women faced increased barriers – including negative attitudes of providers, gowns and equipment that did not fit their bodies, being weighed at every visit, and receiving unsolicited weight loss advice regardless of the reason for their visit.”

Research has proven what many of us already know: the larger we are, the less likely we are to seek gynecological care. Given that clinical breast exams and mammograms are most often performed in conjunction with gynecological exams, if we’re not going in for our PAP smears, then our breast health is also neglected.

While it’s true that women who have a family history of breast cancer can be at greater risk for getting the disease, the primary risk factor for breast cancer is simply being female. The statistics are startling: one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and the vast majority of women who are diagnosed have no family history of the disease.

But there is good news as well. Experts agree that early detection and treatment is key to survival. According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is caught and treated before it spreads to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. For us, this means that we must love our bodies enough to get the breast health care we need and deserve.

The leading breast cancer advocacy organization, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, recommends that women ages 20 to 39 perform a monthly breast self-exam (just as your period is ending) and have a clinical breast exam every three years. Women who are 40 and older should perform a monthly breast self-exam and have a clinical breast exam and mammogram once a year.

If you have trepidations about going to the doctor, there are actions you can take to overcome the barriers Pat Lyons outlined:

  • Ask plus-size friends for referrals to size-friendly health care providers or interview a doctor about his or her attitudes before making an appointment.

  • Ask a friend to act as your advocate and accompany you to your exam.

  • Bring a sleeveless oversized top with you to slip on if the gown doesn’t fit.

  • If you’re uncomfortable being weighed, give yourself permission to refuse.

  • If the doctor starts to give you unsolicited weight loss advice, your advocate can step in and remind the doctor of the reason for your visit.

Loving your body encompasses loving and caring for your breasts. A good first step is to take the breast health pledge and commit to doing a monthly breast self-exam and getting a clinical breast exam and/or mammogram (depending on your age).

You can even take the pledge online at Yoplait’s BeABreastCancerChampion.com and receive a monthly reminder about your self-exam. For a printable breast self-exam card and more information about breast cancer, visit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website at www.komen.org

Remember – you deserve it!

Sally E. Smith is a long-time MiB customer. Her support of and advocacy for plus-size women fueled her passion when she was editor-in-chief of BBW Magazine and during her 11-year tenure as executive director of NAAFA.

 

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