Mammogram. Have you had yours this year?
It’s the painful chore that needs to be done. Yearly. This breast x-ray provides a snapshot of the condition of your breast tissue. The scans are then compared year after year. For changes or irregularities.
Mammograms are not fool-proof. However, it is the only tool we have at the moment to view the health of the breast tissue.
Every seat is occupied in the main waiting room with postmenopausal women. Worried that perhaps they will find something sinister today. The majority will not. Their hushed whispers, ‘I have a friend who died from breast cancer,’ and ‘breast cancer is terrible,’ seem never-ending.
These are not the type of stories I want to hear. Not today.
I’m taken to a small sitting room, away from the postmenopausal women. Thank goodness. I change into a thin, slightly yellowed gown. And wait patiently. The hairs on my arms stand on end. Just like vertical soldiers. Perhaps its nerves or maybe the gown needs to be thicker.
The scanning room is relatively small, with a large machine in the middle. It takes 3D images of the breast tissue.
The radiographer confirms my personal details and adamantly tells me that my left breast will be scanned first. What?? Left Breast. This is an error. I don’t have a left breast. It is the right breast that needs to be examined. It’s at risk of getting cancer.
Seriously! Not impressed with the administration records.
Another anxious wait, while my records are confirmed. The radiographer reappears and apologizes for the confusion. I’m now nervous. The stories from the waiting room are still fresh in my memory. Will something sinister in my right breast be found today? You never know what is growing inside you.
As I look at the machine, I know what is coming. I’m jolted back into the present as the trays are disinfected.
I place the right breast on the cold, plastic tray. And lookup. Another tray lowers down. Squashing. Hard. The pain shoots into my shoulder. The radiographer moves my torso. I’m now in an awkward position.
Are we done yet?
My breast is squashed incredibly flat between the two trays. I can’t move. The scan moves around, taking multiple images for about 30 seconds, then the radiographer checks the scans and releases the breast. What a relief. I wonder if she could have released it earlier. Perhaps. This process is repeated again from the side.
I return to the small sitting room while the surgeon reviews the scans. A row of empty chairs and the dull buzzing noise resonates from the scanning rooms.
This feels like an eternity. I hope he hasn’t gone out for a coffee.
Why is it taking so long?
Now, for the ultrasound. Both breasts. I lie on the bench, my right breast still red and sore. The technician places cold, thick gel on my chest, and the ultrasound begins. The probe glides across the entire breast tissue, while multiple images are taken.
He tries to be friendly. Chatty. “How has your day been?”
It is finally over. For another year. I’ll have the results at the end of the week.
Mammograms are a fact of life. Just like going to the dentist. It needs to be done, particularly if there is a family history of breast cancer or you are over the age of 40yrs. Having yearly scans could save your life.
Being in discomfort for 2 minutes is worth it. To live.
So, what are you waiting for?