The Mammogram

We have all heard that taking charge of your healthcare is important.  But actually doing it can be rather intimidating, especially when it comes to getting your first mammogram. 

Most of us have known someone who found a breast lump at one point or another.  Whether they are benign or not, the possibility is terrifying.  So, the idea of going to look for something that you cannot actively feel seems like you are looking for trouble.  This is where being your own health care advocate becomes important.  Just because you can’t feel it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get checked. 

Most doctors don’t recommend women start getting yearly mammograms until they are in their 40’s (usually age 40-44).[1]  My mammogram journey began early because I have a family history of breast cancer.  In cases like mine doctors usually recommend biennial (every other year) screenings starting 10 years of age before the family member was diagnosed.[2] 

The Visit

There are always so many questions that run through my head before a new doctor visit; but this one is like no other.  What should I expect?  How long will I have to wait for the results?  Will it hurt?  Why couldn’t I wear perfume or deodorant?  Why is it so dark in here?

The nurses are very friendly and welcoming.  They readily answer any questions I have and have kind eyes behind their masks.  They lead me to a locker room where I am told to replace my top and bra with the cloth robe and lock up my belongings.  In the locker there I find a mini deodorant and bag of chocolates for after my visit.    

I am led to a dark room with the dreaded mammography machine (dun dun dunnn!)  There is one nurse in the room to help “position” you in the machine and another behind a window who can see what images are being taken by the machine.  Here is where I began to get some answers.  It was dark so that they could see the images, and no perfume or deodorant because they did not want it all over their super expensive machinery.  Also, despite the hype about mammograms being painful vice like devices, it is more uncomfortable than painful.  The ladies there tell me that my doctor should have my results within a week. 

Afterthoughts

While it was not the best experience of my life, it was far from the worst.  This is something I will have to do for many years to come, and I will always hope for the best outcome.  I would encourage other women to go get their mammograms done when asked to do so by their health care providers.  If you have any questions or concerns talk to your doctor, nurse practitioner, or friends who have been through this process.

 Let’s take the mystery out of mammograms and become advocates, not only for ourselves, but for each other.  Perhaps Serena Williams said it best when she told People Magazine, “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another.  We’re strongest when we cheer each other on.”  So ladies, let’s be each other’s advocates and cheerleaders in every aspect of life.        

If you have more thoughts or information about breast cancer awareness contact us here!

[1] American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer, July 30, 2020, https://www.cancer.org/healthy/find-cancer-early/cancer-screening-guidelines/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer.html

[2] Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines, 2020, https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/breast/mammograms-breast-exams/screening-guidelines-breast