These days, unfortunately, far too few people take the time from their busy schedules to sit down and think deeply about belly-buttons. When people think of the word “navel,” they often think of a kind of orange or something to do with battleships, rather than the part of your body that, for the first nine or so months of life, linked you to mom’s womb. Have you forgotten how it felt, just seconds after being born, when the doctor sliced your umbilical cord off and tied the stub into a knot that is now your belly-button?
Even in the medical literature, there are few references to belly-button disease. Almost no medical students, on graduation, choose to specialize in clinical navology (i.e. the study of belly-buttons and related health issues, such as lint-removal and outie-to-innie surgery.) The “pink ribbon” campaign against breast cancer has been hugely successful, while few have even heard of the “transparent ribbon” campaign against belly-button cancer. (There are two main reasons for the relative failure of the transparent ribbon movement: 1, the fact that nobody has ever died of belly-button cancer; and 2, it’s really hard to see if someone is wearing a transparent ribbon or not.)
Is the neglect of the belly-button a bad thing? I think so. There is anecdotal evidence that some sexually-inexperienced men, during intimate times with a romantic partner, mistake the partner’s belly-button for something else. This can be embarrassing and uncomfortable for both. Married couples who persist in this mistake may find it difficult to start a family. All that could be avoided, if the basic facts about belly-buttons were taught in high-school sex-ed class. Instead, teens pick up all kinds of myths and half-truths about belly-buttons on the street and the internet.
What do our kids need to know to keep their belly-buttons safe? First of all, starting at age 12, everybody should know how to check their belly-button for any unusual changes. After age 25, navologists recommend people come in for yearly navel screening. The first time one of those high-tech screening machines is stuck inside your belly-button, I’ll admit it feels odd, but you soon get used to it. In the long run, any discomfort is minor compared to the peace of mind you’ll gain, knowing your belly-button is not at risk. (A shout out to the excellent staff at the Hamilton Belly-Button Clinic — thanks guys! See you next week!)
Because of the need for regular screening and frequent appointments with my clinical navologist, I am grateful to live in Canada, where I don’t have to pay for the costs out-of-pocket. In the US, on the other hand, ObamaCare is still struggling to bring affordable belly-button coverage to the most needy Americans.
Reader: If you care at all about public health, I urge you to support the transparent ribbon campaign and to forward this blog posting widely. The belly-button you save may be your own.