Today started like any other…exception: a mammogram
Today did start like any other for me, it started with me waking up…looking at the time…But then…thinking: “Drat! I get to have the girls squeezed in exactly one hour! I’m having a mammogram.” And this is when my day took a step away from normal. I had to also remember to not put on any deodorant or powder until after the mammogram.
I don’t know what you call your breasts but I just refer to mine as the girls. And today, they were going to be squashed in a big machine at the hospital as a precautionary screening for any breast cancer. I really do not mind having a mammogram. Yet, I don’t know anyone that looks forward to having some strangers hand placing, pushing and pulverizing an attached piece of their body, especially one normally not shown in public! I am no different.
So why do I put myself through this annually? EASY ANSWER-it could save my life.
Mammograms are the best medical imaging screening test that has proven itself to reduce deaths from breast cancer. Early detection of breast cancer is the best reason for having a mammogram. But you may have other questions, so let me address a few. I am no doctor, so I can only vouch for myself, but I know:
- Is it painful? Not for me, I am slightly on the large size and medium height so the tight squeeze and hugging the machine isn’t hard for me. Yet, my 48 year old very tiny niece, found her test to be painful. I believe the physical height and breast size was the difference.
- Is it time consuming? Not at all, I was in and out in 20 minutes.
- Was it embarrassing? I am 60 years old, I’ve had many medical tests requiring me to disrobe, and my technician, Patty, was female. I really believe hospital personnel try to help us retain our dignity, so no, for me, it wasn’t embarrassing.
- How often do I have a mammogram? Annually.
- When did I start getting mammograms? I started when I was about 40 years old. There is no history of breast cancer in my family but having had a hysterectomy at 30 years old, I made the decision to always keep up with these screenings.
- Do I do self-breast exams? Yes, I picked the 30th of the month as my day. It’s easy to get in the habit, just pick a day, and until the habit is formed, write the number of the day on the mirror or put in your planner. It’s your body, check your breasts!
A Mammogram and self-breast exam are your partners to being your best weapon for early detection of cancer.
A self-breast exam doesn’t take long. I find it easiest to do mine while in the shower and still soapy. To do an exam, use the pads of your fingers and feel the entire breast and armpit area. Use your right hand on your left breast and your left hand for your right breast. Whichever hand is doing the exam, the other hand should be behind your head. During the exam, you will be looking for:
- Any lump or mass, painful or not
- Any swelling under arm or collarbone
- Any skin irritation, dimpling or swelling of a breast
- Any pain in breast or nipple
- Nipple turning inward
- Redness, any scaling or thickening of the nipple or skin
- Any discharge, other than milk, coming from nipple
By doing a monthly self-breast exam, you will get to know what your breasts feel like. If you do experience any of the above symptoms, first thing to do: DO NOT PANIC! Call your doctor when the office is open, explain your findings, then follow the advice of the medical personnel. The doctor will take many things into consideration, your age, family history, etc. before making any recommendation.