first mammogram

What my first mammogram experience was really like

Turning 40 last year, I was all ready to embrace this new milestone.  I also knew that it was time to undergo a mammogram.  My gynaecologist scheduled an appointment for my very first mammogram.

She managed to book me in for a 09h00 appointment on 8 August 2016.  I was instructed not to wear deodorant, powder or perfume on the day of the screening. Apparently this leaves a shadow on the X-ray.  I’ve heard so many negative stories about how painful it is.   With that in mind, the procedure scared me.  Nevertheless, even though fearful, I adhered to the appointment as it was for my best interest.

After completing the paper work, the radiologist directed me to the changing room.  I had to remove all my clothes from the waist up and covered myself with a white robe.  Four ladies sat in the waiting room waiting for screening.  Everyone seemed so tense with their eyes just focused in the magazines they were paging through.  And I must be honest the suspense was killing me.  The four ladies screened before me, received their results, got dressed and left.

Then it was my turn.  The radiologist was friendly.  She explained the procedure and ensured me that should I feel discomfort at any time I need to tell her.  So many thoughts rushed through my mind at that moment. What if they detect an abnormality and how will I deal with it? I also looked at the machine and from what I imagined based on stories I heard, it would be metal plates that will squeeze and squash the living daylights out of your boobs.  This machine was different though and there were no metal plates in sight – to my delight of course.

The radiologist positioned me in front of the machine.  Checking my comfort levels at all times.  Before proceeding; she explained the procedure to me.  My left breast was first placed between the two plastic plates.  The top plate came down and compressed my breast for detailed imaging or should I rather say X-ray.  She took three images of each breast. I swear the screening of both breasts didn’t even take 5 minutes and it was pain free.

After examining the images, the radiologist couldn’t get a clear view of any abnormalities. I then had to go for an ultrasound.  At that moment, I started to panic as to why they couldn’t see anything – once again so many things raced through my mind.  Something had to be wrong that I need to go for an ultrasound.

The doctor performing the ultrasound explained that I have dense breast tissue and they couldn’t make a clear analysis from the mammogram images. Although dense breast tissue is normal, it is very difficult to detect breast cancer via a mammogram and therefore the risk of having cancerous lumps is higher as you can’t easily feel it with self-examination.

I kid you not, the ultrasound was more painful than the mammogram.  The ultrasound probe pressed my breasts, making it extremely painful.  Long story short, the results were clear and both my breasts were normal.

I wouldn’t have been aware that I have dense breast tissue if I didn’t go for a screening. Knowing what I know now, I will not hesitate to make my next mammogram appointment.  I suggest that if you never had one, make an appointment immediately.  Don’t let your own fears stand in the way of your health and don’t believe everything that you hear about mammograms.  Your experience might not be the same as someone else’s.  Get screened, early detection can save your live.

This is a third post focusing on women’s health.  If you haven’t read my other posts on this feature, please have a read Love your heart and Know your numbers.  You might find Are you covered? an interesting read as it links up with previous health related posts.