I have a history of breast cancer on my mother’s side of the family, so – honestly – I should have had my first mammogram a few years ago. My doctor kept recommending it, and I kept putting it off.
When I turned 40 in September, my doctor’s suggestions quickly turned to insistence. His office called and called and called me to make an appointment, until finally I caved in.
Now, I understand that “love” is a strong word. And I don’t really think – contrary to the tongue-in-cheek title of this post – that I will ever come to love my mammograms. But after finally having my first mammogram earlier this year, I thought of four reasons that will at least keep me from dreading them.
1. It’s Not an “Annual”/Pelvic Exam
I’m sorry if this is “too much information,” but – hello – pelvic exams are not much fun. I go to my “Annual”s because I know it’s the right thing to do for my health, but being completely undressed under a hospital gown and lying on a table leaves me feeling awkward and vulnerable. By comparison, I felt *much* more in control during my mammogram. You only remove the clothing from your waist up, and you are standing for the duration of the appointment, able to keep as modest as possible while each breast is examined. It felt much less invasive than any other women’s health visit I’ve had.
2. It’s Pretty Quick
My mammogram was performed on a Selenia Dimensions machine. I had to stand in some slightly awkward positions and hold my arms askew – all to make sure my breastbone and/or arm bones weren’t in the image – but the technician walked me through every second of the exam, and it was all said and done in maybe 20 minutes. I even stopped to ask her “Wait, is that it?”
3. More Often Than Not, It Doesn’t Hurt
I don’t feel confident saying “Oh, pshaw, it doesn’t hurt!” as a blanket statement, because I don’t doubt that some women experience tenderness or even pain during a mammogram. But the technician helping me has been doing mammograms for 13 years, and she said she rarely has women experience any significant discomfort. Personally, I was completely fine. The most uncomfortable part was probably standing in such a way that the machine could get a clear image of each breast, but that’s a small thing. I’ve definitely felt more pain/discomfort during a pelvic exam (see item #1). Blogger Amy Oztan of Selfish Mom wrote a funny post about this topic in her post Things I’ve Done That Are More Uncomfortable than a Mammogram. You should check it out!
4. It’s Very Thorough
My technician carefully explained that nearly 30% of women in their office will get a call for a follow-up exam after their first mammogram. That’s because the doctor has not had an opportunity to establish a baseline, so if they see any thickening of tissue, any area of concern, they will want to follow up to rule out any issues. I’m glad she told me that, because three days after my first mammogram, I got a call to come back in for an ultrasound of my right breast. I did not panic, I did not worry, I just knew that the imaging was very thorough, and that my doctor wanted to be thorough as well. I went back for my ultrasound, and sure enough, I have a small cyst in my right breast – one that will resolve itself in time. Now my doctor knows to look for that again next time and is more familiar with my particular tissue and breast density.
BOTTOM LINE: A review of 50 years’ worth of studies by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital shows that mammograms reduce breast cancer death rates overall by about 19 percent. (source) To put it in perspective, a 19 percent reduction works out to more than 7,500 deaths prevented every year. How many lives do you think those 7,500 women touch? And how many lives do you think will be so much better by having them here? By having you here? Ladies, talk with your doctor about getting your mammogram!!
I have been wanting to post about my first mammogram for a while, just to reassure other women that it really isn’t such a scary – or painful – experience. But I felt a sense of urgency to post once I found out that my blogging friend, Amanda Henson, was just diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Amanda is a young wife and mother of two, a long-time blogger and active member of the social media space, working as the volunteer coordinator for the Type A Parent conference and offering her voice and talents to several endeavors online.
It makes no sense to think these things can’t hit close to home, but I still felt a punch to the gut and a feeling of “Wait…WHAT?” when I found out. In sharing my own mammogram story, I also just want to share information about Amanda, and how bloggers online have gathered to support her.
You can visit the page, or donate HERE:
Purchase the Open Hearts for Amanda necklace from Studio Jewel by Lisa Lehman