COLUMN: Have you had your mammo yet?

Lisa Clark, Doctor's Orders

This week I spent some time pondering the topic for a column. Then with all the pink visible in our community from hats, to T-shirts, and then the NFL community sporting their pink cleats, gloves, headbands and whatever other accessory they can wear, it was clear to me.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is every October, and every October we remember how important it is to get our mammograms and our annual checkups. Somehow the visual between boobs being squished between two plates and the dreaded pap smear go together. They go together like football and Sundays, triathlons and grit, like boxing and blood, and curling and Canada.

So if you have had your pap and your mammogram lingering on your mind, make that appointment. If you have had your mammogram and keep thinking about the pap, get 'er done. Women talk about all kinds of things, but breast cancer is a topic that has become all too familiar in our communities and families. Your friends and family continue to remind you: “Have you had your mammo yet?” That’s what loved ones do! That’s what physicians do, too, because we care.

Why breast cancer as a topic from an author whose focus is weight and exercise? Many patients are surprised when I tell them that obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer. It’s not the only risk factor, but nonetheless, from where I sit, I want to eliminate every possible risk factor.  

Often when I don’t feel like working out, I am reminded of all the women I have seen brave the disease and beat it, and then those who have lost the battle. Survival has increased thanks to continued research and the incredible resources we have in this country. I put on my shoes and get in a workout. There are so few things we can control in this life, but I like to believe that taking action against this disease is the way to beat it —  and hopefully cure it!

Thanks to the NFL and NBA and WNBA players and other celebrities, who can bring attention to the disease of breast cancer. It has increased awareness and funding to continue research and look for a cure.

Until we find a cure, eliminating risks is the best we can do. Exercise, keep a healthy body weight, don’t smoke, limit your alcohol intake, find out about family history, do your self-exam every month, and get your yearly mammogram. 

I have had my breasts flattened more than I ever thought possible, and when the mammogram tech says “let me know when it gets uncomfortable” I think to myself, “when you grabbed my boob and put it between two cold plates, you had me at hello.”But, I want to make sure the radiologists can see every cell in my boobs. So I tell them “it’s okay — go as tight as you need” because I came here today with a purpose, and I’m not leaving until my boobs have seen squished at every possible angle. It’s okay if they hang low for a few days. 

So for those who have said it’s too uncomfortable, I am aware. But is it not worth it? It is for me, so I still do it! I will continue to encourage my patients to be proactive. Control the risk factors you can.  

Get out and join in on you local breast cancer fundraiser, fun run, walk, half marathon, or marathon this month. Get fit while fighting breast cancer. 

Dr. Lisa Clark is owner/physician at Clark Family Medicine in Miramar Beach. She is the author of “Lighten Up America” and writes a blog at