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I Would Die If I Were To Ignore You
April 13, 2014 10:45 PM   Subscribe

The I Touch Myself Project uses the Divinyls' iconic song to encourage breast self-examination.

A number of Australian female singers including 'Little Pattie' (Patricia Amphlett, Chrissy's cousin), and Olivia Newton-John, a 'breast cancer thriver', have come together to cover the song for the Project.

Behind the scenes.

Chrissy's husband, Charley Drayton, talks about Chrissy, their relationship, her diagnosis, and the motivation behind the Project.

Chrissy died of breast cancer and multiple sclerosis just under a year ago (previously). At the time, Charley said "Chrissy expressed hope that her worldwide hit I Touch Myself would remind women to perform annual breast examinations".
posted by malibustacey9999 (40 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
And of course I forgot the link to www.itouchmyself.org.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:56 PM on April 13


It's a great cause and I love the song, but this seems opportunistic to me. The song isn't about breast examinations.
posted by crossoverman at 2:43 AM on April 14


That seems like a weird objection. You couldn't use any song for such a project since no songs are about breast examinations. Unless you, like, specifically commissioned a song about breast exams I guess.

A more salient objection would be that the science doesn't appear to support encouraging women to perform annual breast examinations.
posted by Justinian at 5:07 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


My first thought was that they must have been standing on various stacks of books to all have their heads at the same level.

But yes, this would seem to be an issue:

A more salient objection would be that the science doesn't appear to support encouraging women to perform annual breast examinations.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:22 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


It's kind of the point, crossman. Yes, the song isn't about breast examination, yet it works perfectly to illustrate the ad's message, even more so given that the original artist died of the disease. It's not opportunistic - it's synergy. I think it's a great idea.
posted by Jubey at 5:33 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


The trend of sexing up breast self exams is annoying. I also thought scientists were now saying they were pretty pointless.
posted by missmerrymack at 5:50 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


Do you know the number of women who ignore lumps in their breast out of sheer denial? More than a few. Anything that encourages women to examine their breasts for anything out of the ordinary, and to follow up on it, is a good thing. This isn't about mammograms, it's encouraging women to feel their breasts for lumps and to not ignore them. Also, I don't see this as 'sexing up' anything.
posted by h00py at 6:04 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


A more salient objection would be that the science doesn't appear to support encouraging women to perform annual breast examinations.

This may be the height of talking out of my hat since I A) don't have breasts and B) haven't watched the linked video, but as I understand it, the science doesn't appear to support the benefit of encouraging women to have annual x-rays. I'm not aware of any science that suggests that there is no benefit to conducting self-examinations, i.e, checking for lumps, i.e., touching yourself.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:08 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


I haven't heard anything against manual examinations specifically, presumably knowing your own body only helps. It's mammograms (X-rays) that appear dubious.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:11 AM on April 14


It's a great cause and I love the song, but this seems opportunistic to me. The song isn't about breast examinations.

"I don't want anybody else [to die], when I think about [developing breast cancer] I touch myself".

Close enough.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:12 AM on April 14


Seeing as Chrissy Amphlett, who cowrote and sang the song, and also had breast cancer, specifically requested this use of the song, I'm going to say her wishes overrule our objection that the song wasn't originally about self-exams.

In this context, at this moment, it is. Culture acquires new meaning through time, often inadvertently and against the desires of the creator. In this instance, it follows her will.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:48 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Do you know the number of women who ignore lumps in their breast out of sheer denial? More than a few. Anything that encourages women to examine their breasts for anything out of the ordinary, and to follow up on it, is a good thing.

This concept makes sense intuitively, and it's one of the reasons that encouraging BSE continues to be a center point of a lot of breast cancer awareness campaigns. But the evidence supporting BSE is not very encouraging. This Cochrane review found that BSE may or may not result in more cancers detected, but does not improve breast cancer mortality. It also resulted in a larger number of unnecessary interventions. They conclude that "At present, breast self-examination cannot be recommended." A lot of major health organizations currently recommend against BSE, such as the WHO and the National Cancer Institute, and I don't believe they do so because they don't care about women's health, but because the best available evidence shows the practice causes more harm than good.
posted by bookish at 6:51 AM on April 14 [8 favorites]


This may be the height of talking out of my hat since I A) don't have breasts and B) haven't watched the linked video, but as I understand it, the science doesn't appear to support the benefit of encouraging women to have annual x-rays.
No, it's about self-exams, which most studies have shown to have no effect in reducing breast cancer mortality and may in fact be detrimental. But apparently they may be coming back, so who knows. It seems pretty clear that the most important thing is that women should contact their doctors when they or a partner notice something different in their breasts, regardless of whether they do regular, formal breast self-exams.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:55 AM on April 14


In what way is self examining one's breasts detrimental? I can understand that a lot of lumps may not turn out to be breast cancer but I don't really get how it's a bad thing to question what a lump might be. Is the 'more harm than good' because it might result in a biopsy which turns out to be non-malignant? I'm open to learning more about this point of view.
posted by h00py at 7:04 AM on April 14


The only important thing, IMO, is whether the board is overly well-paid. Is this yet another charity scam, where 90% of the take is distributed to board members and their buddies? Because geez louise, does that seem to be the modus operandi of charity today.

If they're actually putting the money to charitable use, more power to them.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:09 AM on April 14


Is the 'more harm than good' because it might result in a biopsy which turns out to be non-malignant?

Yes. Any medical procedure has a risk of complications, associated morbidity, etc., which needs to be weighed against the benefit. If a test has a high rate of false positives, and each false positive leads to someone getting biopsied for no reason, then it is entirely possible that the test does more harm than good in the aggregate.

An analogous situation is the use of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood tests to detect prostate cancer in healthy men, to the point where even though the test is quite accurate as blood tests for diseases go (in the sense that if you have prostate cancer it will likely tell you so), it led to so many unnecessary surgeries that it is no longer widely recommended. That's not to say it's not useful, but the idea that every man over 50 should get a PSA test was actually pretty disastrous. (Even the developer of the test now thinks so.)

There is a risk whenever you encourage an otherwise-healthy population to get screened for a serious disease, using an imperfect test that leads healthy people to seek medical attention, that you'll do more harm than good.

The trick is really in targeting the tests to groups of people who are actually at high enough risk of having the disease that the cost/benefit of getting screened (and potentially having a false-positive scare and an unnecessary surgical procedure) works out. In the case of breast cancer, family history is probably the biggest indicator that might steer you towards or away from particular screenings.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:01 AM on April 14 [8 favorites]


I know this is an emotional reaction, based on personal experience, but I'm very much for encouraging self-examinations.

You see, I have breast cancer. During the last nine months I've had surgery, chemo and radiation. My cancer was very aggressive, very fast growing. My prognosis is good, mostly because I found it in time and it hadn't had time to spread. I found it through breast self-examination as did almost all of the younger patients (the only place I'm considered young any more is the oncologists office) I've met during this time (and I've met quite a few, through peer support and treatment).

Younger women don't usually have any official screenings, and yearly meetings with a gynecologist aren't really a thing here in Finland. Also, younger women tend to have the more aggressive kinds of breast cancer, the ones that can't really wait safely for months and years to be found. Anecdotally, younger women also have more difficulty getting diagnosed (tales from peers: "you're too young to have breast cancer", "you're so young, it's probably nothing, let's wait six months"). So, we are supposed to hope for our partners to find the lumps or to accidentally find them ourselves? We should hope that our doctors have time for breast exams when we visits them for other complaints (which doesn't happen that often, we are young and healthy after all)?

So, all this talk of not recommending, not teaching self-exams fills my heart with fear. Had my cancer been found later, most likely I would have lost my whole breast and had the cancer in my lymph nodes as well. That would have worsened my odds of survival considerably and my quality of life would certainly have suffered.

Anecdata is not data, I know. I don't know how to reconcile the studies and my personal experience. Maybe the studies and recommendations aren't granular enough concerning the ages of the women. The costs/benefit analysis seems to ignore the quality of life issues caused by late detection, forgetting that mortality isn't the only metric worth considering (one can live many years with advanced breast cancer after all). And maybe younger women are such a small group that we don't show in statistics. I don't know.

So tl;dr. Personal anecdata/recommendation from a breast cancer survivor. Breast cancer in young women is rare, but it does happen. So, examine your breasts so you'll know if something is off.
posted by severiina at 10:58 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


That's awful, severliina. Nobody can or should argue with your personal experience.

All we can say is that recommendations are based on whats best for the largest number of people and has to include lots of cost-benefit analysis. We could encourage everyone to get a full body MRI every year. It would absolutely detect some cancers early and could save some lives. But it would also have huge associated costs and they would almost certainly far outweigh the benefits and so we don't recommend it.
posted by Justinian at 1:16 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]




As someone who personally knows women right now going through chemo (one aged 26, one aged 45, and one aged 69 and possibly one aged 72 who is undergoing surgery as we speak, er, type) who went to the doctor when they found a lump in their breast, and were found to have breast cancer... I am astounded that there is an argument against self-examination.

I've read the links, and I still don't understand the 'it does harm' argument. What, so someone finds a lump and goes to the doctor and gets tested and it's found to be not cancerous? I just don't get how that is doing harm. As far as I'm concerned, if 1 in 100 women are found to have breast cancer early enough to be treated to save their lives, the other 99 who panicked and were tested haven't done harm to anyone, even if it cost the health system a few bucks.

Am I missing something?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:21 AM on April 15


Am I missing something?

No evidence of benefit + unnecessary cutting out of lumps = harm.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:04 AM on April 15


Exactly; any procedure carries the risk of side effects and complications. Making women undergo unnecessary procedures really is harm. Really.

Plus the whole "even if it costs the health system a few bucks" is also harm. There's a finite amount of money. Every dollar wasted on an unnecessary procedure is a dollar that won't be spent on a necessary one.
posted by Justinian at 1:47 PM on April 15


Just remember, if our surgical technology and blood tests improve enough, then the risks inherent in "unnecessary cutting out of lumps" drop too. Conversely, all those biopsies could be come even more dangerous if hospitals grow more dangerous due to the meat industry, etc. producing antibiotic resistant bacteria. Ain't static.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:09 PM on April 15


So, what is recommended then?
posted by h00py at 3:36 PM on April 15


You shouldn't take my word for it since, being a guy, I pay more attention to the prostate stuff for obvious reasons but I believe it's mammograms for women over 40 with a clinical breast exam done by a professional at those times. Recommendations may be more aggressive if you are in a high-risk group.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on April 15


Well. I'm neither a scientist nor a doctor but it seems to me that what is now being advocated is that women below the age of 40 and who don't have a family history of breast cancer should indeed be ignoring lumps in their breasts. I know of many women below 40 who have discovered they have breast cancer far too late because they did ignore a lump due to the belief that the odds were against it being malignant. Early intervention is imperative in the successful treatment of all cancers.

Anecdata, statistics, blah blah. Sometimes it does happen to you. What if the young woman is the first in their family? Fuck yeah, I'd rather undergo a biopsy and have it turn out to be negative than to say, 'oh it couldn't happen to me', only to discover that yes it could very well happen. It happens all the time, regardless of statistics.

I believe this campaign is worth it and every woman, regardless of age and family history, should be proactive in following up changes in their breasts with their doctor.
posted by h00py at 6:14 AM on April 16


Fuck yeah, I'd rather undergo a biopsy and have it turn out to be negative than to say, 'oh it couldn't happen to me', only to discover that yes it could very well happen.

That's certainly your prerogative, but it doesn't change the fact that you are much more likely to be harmed by it (i.e., undergo unnecessary surgery) than be helped. The data show that it has an unmeasurably small effect on the chances of you dying from breast cancer, with a large and demonstrable increase in the chance you'll undergo an unnecessary surgery. For this reason, it is not recommended by public health professionals. It is mainly promoted by non-professionals who are reacting emotionally to anecdotes for which the counterfactual is unknowable and assuming they know it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:26 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Spock. We are, all of us, not just statistical likelihoods but mere individuals and should be treated as such.
posted by h00py at 1:35 PM on April 16


And, apart from that smartarse comment of mine, isn't it likely that one's doctor would be able to tell the difference between a possibly cancerous tumor and a harmless cyst before the question of surgery arises? If I was worried about a lump that I'd never felt before, surely my doctor should be given the opportunity to be given an opinion on it, rather than my just not mentioning it because my lay fumblings were not worth reporting?
posted by h00py at 1:42 PM on April 16


*to give an opinion, I meant to say
posted by h00py at 1:51 PM on April 16


Well. I'm neither a scientist nor a doctor but it seems to me that what is now being advocated is that women below the age of 40 and who don't have a family history of breast cancer should indeed be ignoring lumps in their breasts.

WHAT? That's the opposite of what is recommended! Not recommending formal self breast-exams in no way means you should ignore changes in your breasts!

One can't simply ignore science because it clashes with one's gut instinct. But let's be clear about what the science seems to say; you should NOT ignore lumps and changes but formal staged self-exams do not appear to decrease mortality and do lead to unnecessary procedures.
posted by Justinian at 4:46 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


And my guess is this is exactly why professionals are leery about pushing the "don't advocate self-exams" line. Because some people will hear "ignore lumps!" for no apparent reason.
posted by Justinian at 4:48 PM on April 16


Honestly, I'm right here. This whole FPP was about women touching their breasts and not ignoring any changes they felt. Many people then commented that self examination was no longer recommended by science unless you happened to tick the right (wrong) boxes because it could lead to unnecessary procedures. Therefore, it would appear that many people were saying, no, don't touch yourself.

I am not stupid, I would never ignore a lump and I believe most people would never ignore something that was out of the ordinary with their bodies. However, if you come into an FPP all about touching your body and not ignoring possible symptoms and proclaim that actually science says that could lead to more harm than good and when asked what is now recommended say a yearly X-ray and examination by a health professional, basically dismissing the individual's role in being familiar with their own body, then yes, it is possible that someone may very well say why should I care about this new lump, it's statically unlikely to be anything and my yearly doctor's appointment isn't for another 10 months, no hurry!

I am a big fan of science and medicine and rational thought. I'm also a fan of individuals. I am not a fan of statistical anomalies but they do occur. Some cancers grow faster than others. Some women don't have partners to feel any changes in their breasts during lovemaking. I very rarely feel my own breasts unless I'm doing a self examination. If I stopped doing that and a lump did form maybe it would be too late by the time it presented itself to my doctor? That's what I'm saying and those are my reasons for saying it. I'm glad they're leery on pushing the idea that self examination is pointless. The majority of women who participated in the Shanghai trial did not detect early breast cancer but it's not always about the majority. Individuals matter, most especially in medical cases.
posted by h00py at 5:25 PM on April 16


I feel like you're ignoring the difference between "don't touch yourself" and "doctors shouldn't recommend formal, regimented breast self examination".
posted by Justinian at 6:05 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I guess I don't see why it has to be formal for it to be of use and I don't agree with individuals being lost in the world of statistics.
posted by h00py at 6:09 PM on April 16


...I don't agree with individuals being lost in the world of statistics...

Heh. Nice straw man you got there. Wouldn't want it to get burned or anything, would you?
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:54 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


There's really no need to be rude. It's been brought up over and over about the statistical likelihood of self examination not leading to a reduction in morbidity etc. My point about the importance of individuals in amongst the statistics is not a straw man, it happens all the time (although obviously not the majority of the time because duh) that there are outliers and in this instance there are likely to be some who would benefit from self examination in order to detect a hitherto undetected lump. Anyway, I've said my piece now. Sorry for the repetition.
posted by h00py at 7:08 PM on April 16


There's really no need to be rude.

I think calling someone who is basing his opinions on fact "lost in the world of statistics" pretty rude, innit? Of course, it's okay for you to be rude, because you're righteous.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:59 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Actually I called you Spock, but best to let it go now. You sound very cranky!
posted by h00py at 3:27 PM on April 17


Oh, and I didn't say 'lost in a world of statistics' about you, I said that about people whose results were different than the majority and that their experiences shouldn't be disregarded, but there I go again, being all righteous!
posted by h00py at 3:31 PM on April 17


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