Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I had my third mammogram in less than a year yesterday. When I had my very first mammo, some slight abnormalities showed up. I was told they were most likely dense tissue--muscle that hadn't yet aged into fat. To be safe I had my first diagnostic exam. The initial screening mammo was okay. It wasn't as bad as most women make it out to be, or perhaps my breasts aren't as sensitive to pressure. Very possibly my small cup size may mean less painful exams than women who are well endowed. Still, it's unnerving to see your breasts smooshed down to the size of an IHOP pancake.
The first diagnostic exam was much more uncomfortable. Yesterday's diagnostic was downright torturous. I don't know why, in this day and age, we can come up with all kinds of new techniques, equipment and drugs to keep people alive and stressing over their taxes but a mammogram hasn't changed much in decades. For those of you who have yet to have your first screening mammo, please be assured that it isn't so bad. Yes, there's pressure, in order to flatten out your breasts to the size of chicken cutlets. But it isn't too horrible. Yesterday's diagnostic was much worse.
You know it's bad when the mammographer says "You're going to feel a tearing sensation along with the pressure." She wasn't lying. She positioned the plates so that the maximum amount of tissue would be imaged, which means she started the flattening a few inches below my collar bone. I had no problems with the directions to "don't move, hold your breath". I was pretty certain that if I could move even a fraction in any direction, or inhale the tiniest amount of air that my breast would separate from my body. I was thankful the x-rays only take seconds and that as soon as they're done the machine automatically releases it's viselike grip.
Four x-rays later, I was hanging out waiting for the radiologists to take a look at me from the inside out. It was good news. I don't have to have another mammo until I'm forty. When I went to get dressed I wasn't shocked to see angry red arches on the tops of my boobs. One was already bruising. This morning it wasn't as bad as I expected. Lefty has a bluish black line of a bruise but righty looks okay. Better yet, I'm okay.
Ladies, have you scheduled your mammo yet? If you're 40 or older, you need one every 1-2 years. If you have a family history of breast cancer it's recommended that you have one 10 years earlier than the age of the relative's diagnosis. An estimated 190,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Over 40,000 will die from it. That's one woman every 13 minutes.
Go get squished.