Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Got a Mammogram

Since I turned 40, I had to have a mammogram.  Like most women, I was in a mild panic-slash-trauma mode about this procedure.  And OMG I am Forty.

I told my husband about my upcoming mammogram, because he is my husband, and one of the only immediate links I have to the rational world.  His response:  “Is it because you are 40?” I then briefly tossed around the idea of him becoming my ex-husband.

He was totally ignorant about this procedure.  He didn’t think that this was a big deal.  He didn't know that women dread having this procedure done.  No woman he knew ever said a word about it to him.  He had no idea that it would be the equivalent of someone firmly squeezing his testicles between two hard flat surfaces for 30 seconds, a few times, in a few different positions.  If you are a man, let’s pause while you let that image sink in a little.

You are in a cold room wearing your shirt but no pants, like a baby.  In the room is another person and a big machine.  The machine has two plates.  One is metal and the other is hard plastic.  The person places your testicles on the metal plate and you have to stand right up against the edges of the plates in an awkward position.  Slowly the plastic plate descends to squeeze your nuts firmly against the metal plate.  You want to pull away.  It hurts – and not in a good way.  The person, having released your testicles to the two firm plates, steps behind you to push some buttons on a computer for thirty seconds and reminds you to breathe.  It is embarrassing and you want to cry but you are ashamed, since you are told by everyone - EVERYONE - that this is for your own good.  This procedure repeats over and over for about half an hour.

If you are my husband, let’s carve out some time to talk about your mother having FIVE sisters, and how did you escape life not knowing about a mammogram?!?!?!?

If you are a woman, let’s do a quick fist bump, tip of the chin, or tequila shot in solidarity.  I’ve got your back, girl.

The looming mammogram appointment made me nervous, so I went online to see what I was in for. 

My favorite description talked about feeling “some pressure” during the procedure, which is the same language they use for when you are *literally* being split in two from a baby’s hard skull as it is being uncontrollably expelled from your body, or when you allow a licensed medical practitioner to insert metal tongs into your hoo-ha to spread it apart as he scrapes your tender insides for a sample of tissue, not unlike any number of alien probing nightmares I’ve had.

My second favorite description talked about how you can’t wear deodorant, powder, or lotion during your mammogram, as they may show up on the x-ray as a “breast problem.”  Obviously my antiperspirant was tested for radiology interference, although I’m sure any regular medical procedures my husband has had don’t qualify for any such limitations.

My third favorite?  This whole part:

“Some women worry that a mammogram will be painful.  Compression of the breast is sometimes uncomfortable.  However, it’s very important, as it allows the breast tissue to spread and flatten.  This ensures a clear view of the breast tissue, and reduces the amount of radiation needed to make an image.  Your breasts will be compressed for only twenty to thirty seconds.  The entire mammogram procedure takes about thirty minutes.”

In other words, it’s going to hurt, ladies.  Suck it up.  This is as good as it gets.

Then

“It is not uncommon for an initial mammogram to have suspicious findings, since there are no previous mammograms to be used for comparison.  Most suspicious findings are benign, and may be nothing more than cysts or spots of dense tissue.  Occasionally, suspicious findings are the results of an unclear image.  An additional mammogram to further evaluate a trouble spot is called a diagnostic mammogram and will focus on the problem area.  In some cases a breast ultrasound may be recommended. You may want to schedule your mammogram during your birthday month.  This is an easy way to remember this important annual screening exam, and a great way to celebrate your good health.”

Yes.  A mildly torturous medical procedure, from start to finish, and then maybe even an equally terrifying follow-up or two, is exactly what I want to give myself for my birthday every year.

My husband is incredulous.  “Why can’t they come up with a better way to do this?” he asks.

I stare at him.  I want to scream.  Why can’t they, indeed.


Mammogram info and video from MD Anderson Cancer Center:


18 comments:

  1. Why can't men get it? And why can't a woman develop a better machine?

    Last year I had my first mammogram, because I was 40. What they don't tell you about in the brochure is the possibility of another stressful moment: not hearing anything.

    NEVER let them tell you, "If you don't hear anything, all is well." Before my mammogram I had a lab sample go missing. I didn't hear back, but all was not well. Turns out I had a pre-cancerous growth, but no one knew! With this in mind, I listened to when they said I would hear back on my mammogram. When that date came and passed, I contacted my doctor. While they had logged in my digital "film," no one had ever processed it! Thank goodness all was okay, and that I knew to check up on them!

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    1. Oh my goodness. I am so sorry this happened to you. It just goes to show that we are our own best advocates for our health. I had it in the back of my mind that I would hear back the following week, but I'm not so sure that I would have called had I not gotten a letter with my results.

      Glad to hear that you are okay.

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    2. You are so right, Tammy - that no news is good news approach is nonsense. I've never had anything as serious as your experience, but I've waited nervously for results only to hear nothing, even for things as simple as changes in meds. But they'd sure be unhappy if we didn't call to cancel 24 hours ahead, or pay our bills late, huh?

      Glad you're OK, though...

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  2. I had several when I had my breast reduction, and I've had them since then as well. They've never bothered me. I don't think they hurt at all. Did you go yet? Did you think it was painful?

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    1. I know some women who aren't bothered by them. You are lucky in that regard!

      I did think it was painful. I was tense and indignant and that only added to the mix of emotions I was feeling at the time. The lab tech actually got her hand stuck between the two plates, that's how much one was smooshed down. By the end, we were chatting and she revealed to me that she is overdue on her own mammogram, that's how much she hates having them done. That helped a lot.

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  3. Thanks, Andrea. I wasn't scared enough about 40 being right around the corner! ;-) By the way...I love that you are willing to share just about everything on your blog. My husband makes fun of me for sharing "TMI" on Facebook, especially if it involves him. Your blog makes me giggle every time! I'm glad your mammogram ordeal is over...for now...

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    1. Thanks, and I hope I didn't scare you into putting it off! Mammograms are really the best way to screen for breast cancer, and we should all have them. But I have to believe that there is a better way of doing them, and I hate that there isn't.

      I lie to myself that no one is really reading - that's how I work up the nerve to post some things. But it will be embarrassing when someone at church comes up to me and says "I really enjoyed your mammogram post. The visual of the smooshed boob - classic." Not looking forward to that.

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  4. The nurse or tech in the still of the video looks like she's enjoying it a little too much. Did your tech stare you down as it was happening? - Tyler

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    1. I don't know. But she was wrangling my boob, so a stare down wouldn't have been the worst thing that was happening there.

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  5. Your male version was awesome. I'm saving it for a day when I need a laugh or my husband needs to be humbled, either one.

    I can't say mine bother me too much, but I definitely don't enjoy it. I know I am a miserable cranky witch afterwards, though. Know the part I hate the most? The stupid deodorant rule. Honestly.

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    1. Ha! Seriously is right. I was so paranoid about the "no lotions, powders, or deodorants" rule that I stepped out of the shower, into my clothes, and into the car. when I got there, I was sweaty, ashy, and the skin on my face felt about 2 sizes too small. Choosing not to moisturize was probably overkill, but I wasn't getting myself all worked up for this only to be sent home because some stray Oil of Olay found its way onto my chest.

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  6. It doesn't hurt! I'd much rather do that than the dreaded speculum. :-)

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    1. Every time the speculum comes near, I think, "Open wide!"

      Uuuuugggghhh. :)

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  7. I just turned 40 too and had been totally dreading it for weeks. My appointment was cancelled the morning of because the tech was sick. Apparently it takes a lot of skill and training to squish boobage because I can't get another appt until mid August. Now, I'm really looking forward to it - thanks!

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    1. Oh no, you have it to look forward to - again. What, they only have one boob-squisher in the hospital? Lame.

      When you get it done, you can join me in being indignant about it to everybody! That is something positive to look forward to, isn't it?

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