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Spotlight on Health, Check Your Boobies

Published on: June 01, 2006

Check Your Boobies. The name is not only memorable, it's also hard to
say without a smile. And that's not an accident, according to Heike
Malakoff, founder and head of the Mercer Island-based organization.

Malakoff, a 36-year-old mother of three, was diagnosed with breast
cancer in 2002, when her twin sons were a year old. After completing
her treatment, she began to develop the idea of a not-for-profit
devoted to the prevention and early detection of breast cancer. And
giving the organization a feel that was intentionally playful -- even
fun -- felt crucial.

"When I informally surveyed women, I found that eight out of 10 don't
check their breasts regularly. This surprised me, considering all the
cultural awareness and fundraising we've seen in recent years around
breast cancer. Awareness clearly hasn't led to action when it comes to
early detection. This led me to think about ideas for a different
approach."

Malakoff founded Check Your Boobies (CYB) with the mission of educating
teen girls and women about breast health in a frank, fun,
non-fear-based manner. The organization's goal is to help women know
their breasts and what "normal" feels like for their bodies. Says
Malakoff, "The idea is to demystify the breast, so that we are not
afraid or embarrassed to touch our breasts and talk about them, and
take action if we need to."

According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, women must
check their breasts frequently enough to note changes in them. Checking
them at the same time every month provides a baseline from which they
can confidently note any significant changes and address them as early
as possible with their doctor. Early detection is one of the most
important variables determining treatment options and prognosis for
breast cancer.

Breast self-exams are important for all women but are especially
essential for those under age 40, since mammograms are not widely
available for that age group and are typically less accurate due to the
density of younger women's breasts.

While yearly mammograms are a key aspect of breast cancer screening for
women over 40, self-exams also remain critical, as some cancers are
found that way that don't show up through mammography.

Check Your Boobies hopes to change the way breast health information is
delivered. Malakoff and the breast health educators she collaborates
with offer CYB parties, in which they come to a gathering of women --
be it a birthday party, book club or cultural gathering. Once there,
they provide education and Q&A on breast health and teach women to
do breast exams properly, in a relaxed, non-medical environment.

Check Your Boobies offers these sessions free of charge to anybody who
wants to host a Check Your Boobies party. Inviting CYB to your next
female social gathering is a fun and non-threatening way to assist in
making sure that potentially life-saving information reaches your
friends and family.

Hip CYB gear such as T-shirts and hats are available for purchase on the Check Your Boobies Web site (www.checkyourboobies.org).
All proceeds from product sales go back into the organization. On the
site, you'll also find current information about breast health and
breast cancer detection and the opportunity to register for free email
reminders to -- what else? -- check your boobies.

Check Your
Boobies is a Washington non-profit organization and a public charity
exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal
Revenue Code.

Allison Dworkin is ParentMap's Special Projects Editor. She has two daughters, ages 6 and 3, and is expecting her third child in late May.

A fact from Check Your Boobies:

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 7 women will develop
breast cancer in her lifetime. And early detection makes a HUGE
difference in survival. According to the American Society of Clinical
Oncology, up to 97 percent of women diagnosed with early stage breast
cancer will survive five years after diagnosis. Increasing numbers of
young women are being diagnosed at an earlier age.

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