‘Let’s Talk About Breasts’ is the name of the documentary launched yesterday by highly regarded journalist and media personality Tracey Spicer ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month to help combat the surprising level of complacency that exists among Australian women when it comes to detection fundamentals (self-checks, regular screening and diagnostic mammography exams).
Tracey Spicer is a busy woman! Like most women, she juggles many things in her day-to-day life. In Tracey’s case, she juggles being a wife and mother with her journalism and media commitments, her involvement with a diverse group of charities and a passion for women’s rights, social justice and equal opportunity. In amongst, all this busy juggling, she let one thing slip – it had been 7 years since her last breast check!
Let’s Talk About Breasts documentary with Tracey Spicer and her friends, follows Tracey on a very personal quest through her own detection experience and showcases a group of her closest friends sharing their deepest fears, hopes and encounters with the disease.
I spoke with Tracey and asked her about the documentary and its key messages.
Min: What was it that drove you to embark on making this documentary?
Tracey: Well I’m 48 and I know that sometimes younger women are diagnosed – like women in their 20’s and 30’s but I think it’s like anything and when it starts happening to friends that were around the same age as me there was an epiphany of Oh My God, I’m not doing enough to get myself checked out and that’s when I started doing a bit of an investigation into the fact that there are screening programs for women over 50 but if you’re under 50, because you’ve got dense breast tissue it can be really hard to pick up the cancer. So I wanted to look at that a little bit further.
Min: What do you think are the main reasons why complacency is so prevalent with Australian women?
Tracey: I think there are probably two main reasons for the complacency. One is the fact that women are so busy – especially with work, family, non paid commitments, caring commitments whether it’s older relatives or parents/grandparents – that we always seem to put ourselves last. There seems to be this misconception in the community that because women talk, that we talk about our deepest darkest fears and our health issues all the time and sure we talk but we don’t often think about what is happening in our own bodies until it’s too late. So that’s one thing. The other thing is that with our kind of Anglo-saxon heritage in this country we’re all a bit uncomfortable talking about death and terminal illness so when it comes to something like the BIG C – Cancer we don’t want to even consider that it might happen to us. I know women who have found lumps and haven’t gone to check them out until months later because they’re frightened of what the answer might be.
Min jumping in again: I’ve noticed that many women are put off having a mammogram due to the fear of a mammogram being painful. I’ve had them and while they are a bit uncomfortable, I don’t find them painful at all!
Back to Tracey now: Oh, I’m so glad you said that because that’s a really good third point! When I sent an email to some of my friends telling them I was going to be doing this breast cancer doco – do you want to come, we’ll have a dinner, we’ll have some drinks and we’ll talk about it! The first thing they all said when I told them I was going to be having a mammogram on camera, was “oh better you than me love”! You know, people think that it’s going to be really painful but the procedure has improved enormously over the years and though it is a little uncomfortable, it is by no means painful!
Min: Traditional mammograms used for testing are 2D but in the documentary we’re informed that there is newer 3D mammography technology that is recommended for those women at higher risk. It’s reported that these 3D mammograms can better detect cancer than its 2D cousin, particularly for women with dense breast tissue.
Do you think that with this knowledge, women will come to distrust the results of 2D mammograms and there might be a strong call for the 3D mammograms to be rolled out as the traditional technology used?
Tracey: That’s a great question. I don’t know what’s going to happen but you’re right because as soon as I told my friends about these 3D mammograms they were like well that’s obviously going to detect more cancers and that’s what been borne out in the research and certainly they’re not available as prolifically as 2D mammograms around Australia but I’m sure there will be an increase in requests for them, especially amongst women in their 40’s who have got the dense breast tissue and if you have a 2D mammogram it often doesn’t pick up the lumps because it’s not as detailed and layer by layer as the 3D mammogram so that could very well happen!
Min: Can you explain how a woman can determine if she is at high risk of breast cancer?
Tracey: Yes I can. The important thing is to look into your family history and see whether there’s been anyone who’s had breast or ovarian cancer. They’re the main two risk factors. Your risk factor is increased dramatically and exponentially if that’s the case. Another risk factor is having dense breast tissue – usually women in their 40’s. Also if you’ve noticed any breast changes, lumps, or nipple discharge!
Min: You’ve partnered with *Pink Hope and **Hologic. Can you explain how that came about and how the amount of views and shares of your documentary video will aid in monetary contributions to the charity work of Pink Hope?
Tracey: Yes, it’s all been an incredible collaboration actually! With the Pink Hope aspect, I’ve known Krystal Barter for a long time. She’s lives on the northern beaches up here and we’ve both been associated with the Eagles Angels which is women supporting our local rugby league team. She’s talked to me a lot about the BRCA gene which is so prevalent in her family – that’s why she had a preventative double mastectomy. Because I’ve got a lot of cancer in my family, one of the cancer’s in my family that’s quite profound is pancreatic cancer and that’s affected by the BRCA gene as well so we’ve spoken a lot about genetic relation to cancer. So when we were going to launch this documentary I kind of ran into her and she said we’re launching on the same week, how about we come together on this, and that’s how it came about. So $1 for every view or share of this documentary on YouTube will go to her Pink Hope Foundation which I think is really powerful.
Hologic has been involved with the production of this documentary in relation to our production team – just to make sure that we get all our facts right because there’s so much in relation to medical technology with this documentary. I didn’t want to stuff up any of the information so they’re there to make sure we’ve got everything absolutely right with the TGA and all the medical terms are appropriate so we’re giving really robust advice to women!
Min: Thank you Tracey for your time. Is there any other message you would like to send out to the readers?
Tracey: Absolutely, well first of all thank you so much Min for doing this story and my advice to women is: The time for complacency is over! Know your risks! Do your research and talk to your doctor!
Tracey’s documentary can be viewed below.
It is 24 minutes of MUST WATCH for all women!
LET’S TALK ABOUT BREASTS
Here’s where you can see the documentary trailer and the full documentary directly on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnIKN8xbSATKbZInIZHvfPw
Find out how to proactively manage your breast health at any age! One of the key fundamentals for early detection is self-examination. Many women don’t have the confidence to conduct a self-examination with surety and so don’t bother. Information about breast cancer detection methods is available at www.breastdetection.com.
Pink Hope: Friday 25 September is Pink Hope’s Bright Pink Lipstick Day – get involved and share a conversation about your own family health history. Krystal Barter, Founder of Pink Hope says: “We are really proud to partner with one of our long-term supporters, Tracey Spicer and our new friends at Hologic. The Let’s Talk About Breasts documentary is a powerful opportunity to get women and their families talking about breast cancer risk. We are thrilled to receive $1 for every watch and share of the documentary. This invaluable contribution to Pink Hope will go towards our Assess Your Risk tool to ensure families at high risk can empower themselves to make the best choices to manage their health.”
About Genius 3D Mammography exams: Traditional 2D mammograms provide doctors with a 2D image to evaluate the breast. This can be limiting due to overlapping layers of tissue, which can sometimes produce unclear results, false alarms, or worse – cancer being missed. For a woman having a Genius 3D Mammography exam, the experience is very similar to a traditional 2D mammogram. However it works differently by delivering a series of detailed breast images, allowing doctors to better evaluate the breast layer by layer. Doctors are able to test for breast cancer with significantly more accuracy – regardless of a woman’s age or breast density. For more information visit genius3D.com.au or genius3Dmammography.com.
If you are interested in facts and figures you might like to take a look at this: Breast Cancer and Mammography in Australia – The Facts
Ciao for now,
* Pink Hope is a preventative health charity working to ensure that every individual can assess, manage and reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
** Hologic Inc. is a leading developer, manufacturer and supplier of premium diagnostic products, medical imaging systems and surgical products. The Company’s core business units focus on diagnostics, breast health, GYN surgical, and skeletal health. With a unified suite of technologies and a robust research and development program, Hologic is dedicated to The Science of Sure.
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT