It’s a necessary evil of being a woman. I call it the mammo-slammo or in more medical terms, the mammogram.
At my local hospital, which has a breast screening centre, the biggest challenge is getting to it. Some of you may be able to relate to this journey of a thousand miles.
First you follow the blue line painted on the floor (this is nothing like the yellow brick road). There will be many others following your same path with heads down like zombies so as not to lose the blue line which goes hither and yon down long corridors and around corners. It is vitally important to follow this blue line to the orange wall then to the elevator down where you will pick up the blue line which will eventually end at the breast screening office. If, by now, you do not have leg cramps or angina, the worst is over.
Expect to answer some interesting questions some of which may not seem connected to the breast:
- Have you had a recent fall due to dizziness? (“Well, actually I came close after the 3 mile walk on the blue line.”)
- Do you fall often? (“ummmm, I am a little top heavy.”)
- Ever had breast implants? (“God, no! I’m triple D, lady!”)
Ladies, just leave your inhibitions at the door. You will all be wearing matching robes. It’s an unwritten rule you not make eye contact with any others in the waiting room.
Kudos to all mammography technicians who work in a small office in close proximity to a bunch of women not allowed to wear deodorant. There must be high risk pay. If you have ample bosoms and they have to take various pictures from the side, top and bottom, then be prepared to get very chummy very quickly with a stranger in your personal space. Weird positions. Think topless Cirque du Soleil!
Basically, you are placing your boobs in a vice grip! Just when you are in position and feeling pretty comfortable, the technician is gonna tighten the vice. And a little more. One more little squeeze. It is called breast compression. You may find another phrase. She will tell you to hold your breath. This is no problem as you cannot breathe even if you wanted to.
Say a little prayer than no mouse runs by you while you are locked in!
A few pictures are snapped. (Please, Lord, do not let the Russians hack into these files for Internet sharing) Yes, I think of these things!
The technicians are so professional and caring and are always checking on your comfort level.
“Are you doing okay?” she asks.
“Well, for a girl with her boobs on a glass plate – chest in, butt out – and with the girls flattened like a pancake… doing great.” (Of course, I give no smarty pants answer as I know she has the pressure knob in her hand!)
You may wonder if the girls will ever bounce back. Don’t worry, they will.
Do not just rip your boob away from the machine… lift your boob off the glass plate or half of it will be left on there. (lesson learned)
Let me also remind you that 80 per cent of woman who have a mammography, will get a call back. This just means the pictures were not clear enough for the doctor to read. It means you might need to have another mammogram or an ultra sound. If that call back comes, don’t panic! That is way easier said than done, but try not to. As they will tell you, callbacks are very normal.
Seriously, though, this is a very important test to have for early detection of breast cancer. It is no big deal. If a tiny bit of embarrassment saves your life, it’s a no-brainer. It has saved many of my friends from this horrible disease, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Here’s to the girls!