Today I had my annual mammogram. I was actually a little late in getting mine, but better late than never. When I mention mammograms I always hear comments like “ouch”, “so painful”, and the like. Now, there are a small handful of people who may experience some pain, but that is not the majority at all! It is really more uncomfortable than anything.
I thought I would walk you through my experience again for those that might have missed my video I did about my very first mammogram a few years ago. Yesterday I had a regular follow up appointment with my primary care physician on my overall health and what was new since my weight loss surgery. One of the things I mentioned was that when I had my ER trip because of my gall bladder in January that the scan (MRI or CAT scan, can’t remember which) on my stomach area also showed I had a cyst on my right ovary. At the time we did not worry about that since we just wanted to figure out the gall bladder issue (it ended up being removed). So my primary said let’s go ahead and check out the cyst by getting an internal pelvic ultrasound. She said it was at the Women’s Health Center so I said why don’t I go ahead and get my mammogram done too since it is all in the same place. So today, I had the ultrasound first (and yes, internal means they stick this ultrasound wand into your vagina to look around in there – again not painful, but a tad uncomfortable) then I went to the mammogram area.
After you fill out the paperwork they take you to an area to change. No men are allowed in that section of the center either. In there they have some little dressing rooms that remind me a lot of dressing rooms at a clothing store. You go in and undress from the waist up, including your bra. They also have little wet wipes and ask you to wipe off any deodorant from under your arms. They have nice little cloth robes that you put on with the opening in front. Side note, another NSV (non-scale victory) for me is that the robe fit now with my weight loss so far! Don’t worry if you are a big lady like I have been, you can put another over the front or ask for an extra sheet or something to keep you covered. Back to the story – there are bags to put your shirt and bra in and take out with you. You wait, very briefly, in that waiting area and then are taken to the mammography room.
In the room is the machine and then another machine with a clear shield where the technician stands during the picture taking process. The tech asks you some question about your medical history and that of family and then you get started. I was asked to remove my right arm from the gown and just let the gown hang – you keep the other arm in it to have a bit of modesty. Then you step up to the machine and the technician nicely explains what is happening and asks you to move in some different positions while she places one breast on the “table” of the machine. Moving around is kind of fun, sort of like a really odd Twister game LOL. There is another top part of the table (these are all clear actually) that gently comes down and presses your breast between both plates. This is the one time that it can be a bit uncomfortable. More a pressure thing than a pain thing though. The picture is quickly taken and the top plate moves up and releases your breast. Usually you have two or three pictures in different positions on that side, then you put the robe back on your right arm and do the whole process again on your left side. That’s it! Then you go get dressed and are on your merry way!
When you have your first mammogram sometimes they ask you for another one if they spot something they are unsure of – they want to establish a good baseline mammogram for you. Do not freak out waiting for results or if they ask you to have another one. Also, for me this time I have lost a considerable amount of weight since my last one and I have learned it is not uncommon to have differences because of that too. Again, do not freak out about this. Your doctor will generally get the results pretty quickly and my center also sends out a letter.
Overall, it really is not something to worry about. Just like when you go for a well woman visit and have a pap smear and pelvic exam and a manual breast exam by your doctor – it is not what you would call fun, but it is not the end of the world either. When you do have a mammogram say something to the technician if it does hurt you so that they can readjust and be gentler. If you need to, make an appointment together with a friend and plan something fun afterwards even. Whatever works for you as long as you GET A MAMMOGRAM!
Have you started getting routine mammograms yet? Can you share with those that have not that it is not this horrible and awful thing that many hear it is?
© 2013, Robyn Wright. All rights reserved.