Let’s review: Trust breasts

White bra

Hi. My name is Ima Frawde, CPM. The initials after my name stand for “certified professional mammarist.” I am an expert in normal breasts.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the hegemonic, patriarchal, male medical system that is constantly telling women that their breasts are “broken” and need to be scanned regularly to detect breast cancer. Breasts are designed perfectly.

Are we suppose to believe we’re inferior to squirrels, cows, rabbits and elephants? We have about 5000 species of mammal and we’re encouraged to believe that we’re the only one that needs routine mammograms. How did we managed to get along for thousands of years before mammography? If breast cancer were really that dangerous, we wouldn’t be here as a species.

It’s not a coincidence that my comments sound similar to those made by Ina May Gaskin on Feministing. Ina May is my hero. Everything she says goes double for me (heh, heh, heh, just a little breast humor).

Why should you listen to me? As a CPM (certified professional mammarist), I am an expert in normal breasts. In fact, certified professional mammarists are trained specifically to manage breast health at home. In order to obtain my certification, I had to meet rigorous standards; I was required to submit a portfolio of 20 breasts examined within the home (right and left breasts are each counted separately). Plus I had to observe examination of an additional 20 breasts done by my preceptor. That means I had contact with 20 separate women before I began practicing on my own!

How did routine mammography become so popular? As my friend Ina May says, it’s all the hegemonic, patriarchal medical system “which views women’s bodies as defective designs and allows for profit to be made from women’s fears of their own bodies.”

In fact, it is fear that causes breast cancer. How do we know? Primitive women don’t get breast cancer. Think about it. All those charities in Africa are soliciting money for malnutrition, infant mortality, maternal mortality, and obstetric fistulas. Have you seen even one commercial for an African breast cancer charity? That proves it.

What? You don’t believe that fear causes breast cancer? You mean you deny that there is a mind-body connection?

Once you understand that fear causes breast cancer, you can see why trusting breasts is the best way to ensure good outcomes. Having a routine mammogram in unnecessary when you trust breasts. Mammography has a high false positive rate, and those false positives lead to a cascade of unnecessary interventions like breast ultrasounds and breast biopsies, not to mention undermining women’s faith in their own bodies.

But you shouldn’t think that certified professional mammarists reject technology. Far from it. If we feel a breast mass and it gets bigger despite breast affirmations, cranio-sacral adjustment, blue and black cohosh, garlic and Hibiclens, we refer women to breast cancer specialists. Since breast cancer is very, very rare, particularly in low risk women, we have very low referral rates.

Are we always correct? Unfortunately, no, but some women are just meant to die from breast cancer. They probably would have eventually died in the hospital anyway (it might have been 10 or 20 years later, but the principle holds true).

We’re also working on developing our own technology for identifying early breast cancer. We are creating our own mammography equipment. Even as we speak, several groups of women are currently fabricating mammography machines to our own specifications; they are knitting them from steel wool!

Our machines will have two major advantages over conventional, Western, allopathic mammography machines. First, they won’t involve painfully compressing women’s breasts, and second, they don’t use ANY radiation at all. As soon as the mammography machines are fully knitted, we plan large qualitative studies comparing the experience of having a mammogram with a knitted machine vs. a conventional machine.

You might be wondering why we are bothering with mammography machines at all. In answer, I will paraphrase anthropologist and midwife Melissa Cheyney:

The rituals of home breast care are not simply about assuring personal transformation via the transmission of counter hegemonic–empowering value —although many women certainly described their experiences this way. Home breast care rituals, are also self-consciously political in their intent. As the popular bumper sticker “Mammarists: Changing the World One Breast at a Time” suggests, home breast care is a performative medium for the promotion of social change.

This piece is satire. It first appeared in January 2012.