Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mammograms: Not So Scary After All

Image from Wikimedia Commons
So you may have noticed that I haven't been talking about how this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so far on the blog, or linking to any of the retailers with Pink items drawing attention to the issue.

And here's why. I felt a little guilty doing this because I have never had a mammogram.

Until today.

I know, I know. Bad Viv!

I'm 44, and I *know* that I should have had a baseline mammogram done years ago--by age 40 is the accepted recommendation these days, I think. But I told myself that since there is no history of breast cancer in my family, and since I do have other health issues going on, getting that first mammogram was not a top priority.

This year, though, I realized I needed to bite the bullet and actually go and DO THIS. Because there's really no good excuse for waiting.

So I did.

And you know what? It wasn't bad at all.

I don't know what I'd expected. I'd asked other women, and they had said that, yes, having your breast compressed in a machine is not exactly fun. I guess I thought it would be like those times when maybe you're hurrying to get something done, and not paying attention, and you run into, say, the corner of a desk, boobage hitting smack-dab into the desk corner while your body is still kinda halfway twisted to the side, and you get that sharp, stabbing pain that makes you see stars.

I'm not the only one that does that, right? Anyone else klutzy enough to smoosh their boobs? Please say yes.

But my mammogram was nothing like that.

First, the woman who performed my mammogram, Liz, was super professional and told me exactly what to expect before we even got to the scary-looking machine.  She told me we would be taking a total of four images, 2 of each breast, one from the side and one straight-on.

Liz also told me not to worry if I got a notice in the mail to come back for follow-up tests. According to Liz, about 75% of patients having their baseline mammogram, like I was, get called back in, and of course a lot of them are panicking.

Because when you get that call, what are you thinking? "Cancer."

But as Liz explained, baseline mammograms are examined really, really closely by the professionals. And what they are looking for are two breasts that are very nearly mirror images of each other. They're looking for symmetry.

And most women aren't, by nature, symmetrical. We have differences in our breast tissue, not just one breast from another, but one woman from the next. And until we have a few mammograms, it's hard to know what constitutes 'normal' breast tissue for each of us.

And since this was my first mammogram, the pros reading the images really had nothing to compare my breasts to except each other. So, unless I prove to be one of those lucky few with naturally symmetrical breast tissue, I could very likely get called in for more tests, which might include additional side images and even an ultrasound, just to be thorough.

That was REALLY good to know. I could see myself panicking otherwise, when that notice came in the mail that I needed to follow up.

Also, Liz was really good at her job. I did not feel any OMG breast-stabbing pain. Yes, there was pressure, but it was easily bearable. And she was very quick, and the images were perfect, so we didn't need to repeat anything.

I also felt it was really cool that the machine flips itself sideways to take images of my breasts from the side. But then, I think technology is cool.

The entire process, from taking off my blouse and bra and donning a poncho-like top with snaps at the neck, to answering a few questions about my medical history, and then finally the imaging itself, took less than 20 minutes.

Easy-peasy. Much, much better than, say, going to the dentist.

So, the moral to the story is: Don't be a wuss like me. Get your baseline mammogram ASAP!

And now I can post some of those Pink deals for you all!

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