Mon 31 Aug, 2009
Gentlemen, you may still want to read this, but I’ll understand if its too ‘squicky’ for you. (I’ll also try to refrain from rolling my eyes.)
Ladies: If you are over 40, I certainly hope you’ve had your mammogram. I just did and I’m going to tell you all about it. Think of it as a kind of public service announcement. One that may allay any fears.
First thing to know is that the American Cancer Society has announced that it’s an annual screening now — according to my technician, it used to be 3-5 years between screenings (depending on your physique and family history). But the ACS started seeing a rise in breast cancer in women in their 40s, so they got more aggressive about screening.
The second thing to know is that early detection is the reason to have a mammogram. Long before you can feel anything wrong in your monthly self-exam (you DO do that, right?) a mammography can indicate areas to be concerned about.
In my family the women have — frankly — lots of fibrous tissues in our breasts. Its entirely benign, not generally painful, and not something you can fix. Over the decades I’ve been doing my self-exams I’ve gotten used to my unique shape and internal textures, so I know all about those fibers.And I’m not terribly concerned.
How it went for me:
I arrived 15 mins before my appointment to check in. They verified my insurance and other vital information (like: was I taking any medication, including vitamins and hormones). I sat for a few minutes. Right on time I was called, with two other women, into the dressing room. There I was given a jacket in a soft fabric that slightly warmed and told to take off all my clothes above the waist. One surprise: I was given a wipe to remove my deodorant. This is good for people to know, bring your own to replace that which you wipe off, or do without.
Behind a curtain I changed into my jacket. Aside from the pink pattern, it was quite nice. It was fabric, for one thing, not paper. It was soft. It wrapped across my chest and had ties both inside and out on the seams, making it practical for tying on either side. I know it seems silly, but that jacket embodied more respect for me as a human than I have ever experienced in a medical establishment.
After a brief wait I was introduced to my technician and taken to . . . THE ROOM. It wasn’t that frightening. Here’s a picture of the machine:
The third thing you need to know is that mammography technology, like many things, has evolved. The machines are often described as ‘softer’ and the time it takes to take that picture is faster.
You will have your breasts squished, however. Deal with it. The compression is necessary to even out the breast so it can be completely visualized. Apparently it also means they need to use less radiation (and I am all for that).
A normal mammography is two pictures of each breast — top to bottom and side to side. So your breasts get pressed pretty flat in the former and then smooshed tightly for the latter. It wasn’t that awful. (Apparently breast size makes no difference.)
One thing you really want to keep in mind: do NOT, not ever, schedule this exam the week before your moontime. In fact, if you can schedule it for the week following your flow, that is ideal.
So, ladies: have you had your mammogram?