Monday, September 12, 2016

My First Mammogram

I am thirty-six years old with no breast cancer history in my family.  Even though, I decided to get my first mammogram back in June.  Early detection is key to so many chronic illnesses, but especially Cancer.

Before this blog goes too far, let me start by saying that everything turned out fine.  I want to use this post to explain the process of a mammogram in hopes of lessening the fear in some women.

Here are a few things to know before you go:
1. Don't wear a dress.  Upon arrival at the office, you'll be taken to a changing room where you can take off your shirt and bra.  You'll put on one of those delightful paper gowns that opens in the front.  It only goes to waist level, so you can stay dressed from the waist down.
2. Don't wear lotions, perfumes, and deodorant to your visit.  Now, let's get serious for a minute.  No deodorant?  If you are wearing any of these things, you can use wipes they have in the changing room to remove any traces.
3. Leave your modesty at home.  The technician is going to see, touch, and adjust your breasts.  They are doing their job - not judging your size.

Is it going to hurt?
For me, the process didn't hurt.  It did feel sort of uncomfortable, though.  You have to "plop" your breast (one at a time) up on the imaging surface.  The technician will move it as needed and also adjust the machine so that it squeezes down on your breast.  You can hear the electronic noise as it clamps down and sort of see it happen.  I did notice more uncomfortableness on my left breast compared to my right.  You are only in the squeezed position for about ten seconds.  I had to take two images per side.  Overall - quick and mostly painless!

Getting a call back
The technician was very thorough with me (which I love!) and explained that most women get a call back after their first mammogram.  The reason is that they haven't reviewed images of your breasts before, so anything that might be perceived as abnormal, will be.

Even though I was warned, I still panicked a little bit when I got the call back.  I wondered what they saw; how long "it" had been there; and if I was going to lose my breasts (totally normal reaction...). 

At the call back, the process was very similar.  The technician this time had to take a few additional images of both breasts.  She explained that the doctor was on-site to review the original images again as well as the new images.

I waited in an exam room while the doctor reviewed the images.  The technician came in about ten minutes later and said they needed to take one more image of my left breast.  At this point, I was fully convinced I had cancer.  I knew everything they were doing was routine, but the mind starts to wander while you sit in an empty exam room wearing an open front paper gown.

After I completed the additional image scan, I was able to wait in that same room while the doctor reviewed it.  She came in a few minutes later and told me I had a great baseline.  (Thanks girl.  You too!).  To clarify, a baseline is the first round of images they take when there are no known issues.  They can use those images to compare and contrast in the future.  She went on to say that I don't need to come back until I am forty years old unless my doctor and/or I notice any changes.

Peace of Mind
I'm glad that I went ahead and checked "get a mammogram" off of my to-do list.  Knowing everything is ok at age thirty-six is much better than waiting until forty.  I recommend scheduling your appointment sooner than later.  Make sure you share your story with other women (and men).  The more we educate each other, the better things will be!

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