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When it comes to beauty, men glance at women’s breasts first

When breast cancer patients with a genetic predisposition to the disease are faced with a choice between life and beauty, it’s a simple decision for most. The challenge is in living with it.

My bilateral mastectomy was in November, and I’m still adjusting to the changes in my body and psyche. One can enjoy life without breasts and fertility. But treatment changes life for young, single patients in unanticipated ways.

“It’s tough to feel pretty without my breasts. The implants are weird looking,” I told a psychologist at the University of Miami’s Courtelis Center for Psychosocial Oncology. “I really don’t feel beautiful anymore.”

“You are not your breasts,” she replied. “There is more to you than that. You have a pretty face. You are intelligent and interesting, and that makes you beautiful.”

Physical attractiveness is directly linked to human mating patterns. Studies have shown that women with larger breasts tend to have higher levels of certain hormones that promote fertility.

The face is not as important when it comes to first impressions for most men. In a 2009 study, researchers from New Zealand’s University of Wellington measured tiny eye movements to record which areas of a woman’s body men looked at first. Not surprisingly, they found that about 80 percent of men’s “first fixations” were on the breast and midriff. About 20 percent stared at the woman’s face.

Publicists and TV producers use this to sell their shows. Last week, covering the Latin Billboard Awards in Coral Gables, I was glad I didn’t have to compete with the women on the red carpet — and even some of my colleagues — for attention. “The dress has to hug you in all the right places,” a blond reporter from Argentina told me. She looked like a peacock in a tight, backless white gown full of feathers and sparkle.

The breast implant parade of Telemundo soap opera stars offered many “va-va-voom” moments. Actress Jacqueline Marquez wore a golden-sequined dress with a deep V-cut that barely covered her voluptuous breasts. Out of the dozens of women at the show, only a few had natural-looking breasts.

For cancer patients like me, whose real breasts were like time bombs, advances in plastic surgery have been miraculous.

“Not every one gets surgery. It looks so fake,’’ a male co-worker said. “It’s better to just leave the scars. I have seen some women get tattoos to cover them.”

My jaw dropped. “Are you crazy? That’s not me. No way,” I said.

The saline-solution breast implants have made me feel less like an alien. Surgeons insert the expandable implants to stretch the skin. After several weeks of radiation therapy meant to kill lingering cancer cells, the skin needs about a year to heal to avoid injury.

Although I’m working on placing more value on intangible qualities, I’m looking forward to joining the silicone-implant club next year. I agree with a man on the Telemundo production team at the Latin Billboard Awards: “Que viva the fake boobs!”


Part 1: At age 33, I’m dealing with breast cancer

Part 2: Cancer treatment complicates dreams of pregnancy

Part 3: Hanging in when chemotherapy gets rough

Part 4: Tough surgery choices: Mastectomy vs. Lumpectomy

Part 5: Silicone implans are not the only way to go in breast reconstruction

Part 6: Rebuilding the breast from body tissue

Part 7: Body fat can be used to build breast

Part 8: Facing my fears after mastectomy

Part 9: Taking control of the fear that comes with breast cancer

Part 10: Doctor knows about being a breast cancer survivor

Part 11: Radiation therapy gives her hope

Part 12: Finding strength from others

Part 13: Facebook, medication help breast cancer patient deal with depression

Part 14: A new outlook on 2012

Part 15: Breast cancer patient faces genetic mystery

Part 16: Using diversion to cope with harsh reality

Part 17: After radiation therapy ends

Part 18: Friend’s breast cancer journey is not as fortunate

Part 19: Anti-tumor meds come with scary story

Part 20: Reentry into the world after breast cancer treatment

Part 21: Too much fear, too little trust

Part 22: Chemo brain complicates return to work

Part 23: The Cancerous tumor is gone, not the fear

Part 24: Drawing strength from a singer’s defiant spirit

Part 25: A breast cancer message at Ultra Music Festival

Part 26: High hope for new drug

Part 27: Religion is an unavoidable topic

Part 28: Treatment changes social life

Part 29: Fatigue is frequent post-treatment companion

From the Editor: Journalist confronts cancer, takes readers along

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