Working as a sonographer in a private obstetrics and gynecology clinic, my job scope includes scanning fetuses, women’s reproduction organs and also breasts. Day in and day out, I meet many kinds of patients, coming in for their regular check-up, screenings and breast lump scans.
I make it a routine and a habit for myself since the beginning, to ask the ladies a few questions. Just to break the ice and to roughly know the general health condition of the patient. My usual question will sound basically like this: “Have you ever undergone scanning/mammogram procedures prior to this?”; “Do you usually do self breast-examinations at home?” and “Have you ever felt any lumps, swelling or hardness in your breasts?”.
For the first question, some had answered “yes” and some “no”. I can understand that because some patients come from rural areas and the mammogram facility is undeniably limited. But for the second and third question, more often than not, the answers I get are very frustrating. Most ladies answer with a standard “I don’t know.” The reasons I felt very let down are, first: self breast examination is very simple and secondly, it’s not rocket science to feel a weird bump on your own body!
Furthermore, the cancer awareness campaign in Malaysia have been initiated by the Ministry of Health since 1995 with the emphasis on Self Breast Examination. It looks like after nearly twenty years of campaigning, spreading information and pamphlets, the society still remained blissfully ignorant and apathetic. I’m sorry if this article does not include any concrete numbers, facts or references to strengthen my case. For facts and statistics, please look for them in any health journals or auditor’s reports. It is my pure intention to express my frustration, seeing the nation’s disregard of their own health.
Undeniably, in these recent years, there are national agencies and state governments offering sponsored mammogram screening. Kudos for this commendable effort and thank Almighty God, many took the chance to undergo the procedure. But these are only limited to senior ladies. Are the younger ones spared the risk and thus not required to care?
My suggestion is, the influential parties, NGOs, charity organizations, and the ministry should pump more gas into the effort, increase the understanding among the women in this country regarding Self Breast Examination (SBE). We should stress on the simplicity of the examination in comparison to the immense benefit. BSE should also be included in the physical and health education in secondary schools.
The fact is, SBE is very easy, time-effective and free-of-charge. Women will spend their last penny for beauty: cosmetics and plastics, but at times forget the free essentials. SBE can be done after shower, in the bathroom, facing the mirror. And we bathe every. Single. Day! My piece of advice, please spend some time and learn to do SBE. For you and your loved ones.
Guys, please look into this also and be aware of SBE. Men have breasts too.
Mr. Azizul Ismie is a sonographer who holds to strict professionalism throughout his career and feels health education is very important for the patients.