I turned 40 last month, and amid the moments of extra close examinations in the mirror to see whether or not I had any new wrinkles, and an even closer examination of my hair – which prompted an almost-immediate trip to the store for Garnier Nutrisse Chocolate Caramel – my doctor ordered a mammogram.
I went to this appointment with extreme trepidation. I have big breasts. Actually, I have incredibly large breasts that look frightening when squished flat like a pancake in the mammogram machine. I was scared the mammogram would hurt. I had no idea those poor things could flatten out like that. It looked like pancake batter when you first put it on the pan and it starts spreading. I’m not sure I will ever look at them the same way again. But..it did NOT hurt. it was NOT embarrassing. it gave me enormous peace of mind.
And…I’m going to do it again next year, whether or not my insurance will pay for it and whether or not the government recommends it.
Getting Ready for Boobie Squishing
The process starts with check-in, a relatively painless experience in which you sign off on the procedure, provide your information, and check in for your appointment. I was lucky enough to be at the new Breast Care Center at Corning Hospital, a private area in the hospital with a separate interior waiting room for the women there for appointments.
You’re only required to undress on the top half of your body, and the techs ask that you don’t wear deodorant the day of your mammogram. (Don’t worry; if you do, they’ll have alcohol wipes available so that you can wipe it off).
You’ll likely be asked to store your personal items in a secure locker and change into a little open-in-the-front gown. Really little open-in-the-front gowns, actually. I had to do a bit of hunting to find one that adequately covered everything, and finally found one that would have fit me and a friend. It worked.
Getting a Mammogram – The Boob Squishing Process
When the tech takes you back for your mammogram, the first thing she’ll do is place little stickers with metal tips that look like bandaids across your nipples. This helps them identify the location of the nipple in the pictures.
The first scans of the breast are done with you standing facing the machine. The machine is a base with an adjustable top plate. When you place your breast on the table base (or in my case, heave it up there) the tech will adjust the breast and your body into position and then bring the top plate down (slowly and carefully – it’s not a waffle iron) on top of the breast to flatten it out enough to get a clear image. This process is repeated for both breasts. I was surprised that there was no pain. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but images of balloons popping come to mind.
The second image is taken of the side of your breast. The machine rotates to capture this view (you get to take your breast out while they adjust the machine!) The position is awkward; I had to reach around and hold on to the machine while the tech held my breast against the platform and squished the top down onto it. The only discomfort I had was a slight pressure on my clavicle from the edge of the machine from the position I was in to capture the image.
Once the pictures are complete, you may be asked to wait while they are reviewed to make sure no additional pictures are required. The whole process only took about 20 minutes. According to my tech – an ARRT Certified Mammographer – out of every 300 or so mammograms she performs each month, only one or two women ever experience even slight discomfort with the process.
Why You Should Get a Mammogram
Beyond the fact that there is genuine peace of mind that comes from being proactive about your health and your boobies deserve your love, this is the BEST preventative measure for discovering breast cancer early enough to detect it and treat it before it spreads into your lymph system and throughout your body. A mammogram can detect cancer cells in your breasts long before you can feel a lump. In fact, if you wait until you feel a lump, you’re likely facing a much more serious road to recovery than you would with early detection with a mammogram.
My great grandmother had a double mastectomy. My grandmother had breast cancer. My aunt and my mom had lumps removed that were benign, but my mother died from cancer. Being proactive about my health – especially as I crest the top of that hill I’ve been climbing – is important to me. I think it should be important to you too, and I hope you’ll become an active boobie squisher!
- Perform self-exams every month from the time you begin menstruating. Yes, we should be talking to our pre-teen daughters about breast health. If they need a training bra, they need to know how to take care of their breasts.
- Have a comprehensive breast exam with your OB-Gyn or family doctor at least every three years; more often if you are at high risk.
- Starting at age 40, have an annual mammogram and continue performing monthly breast exams, even if you’re no longer sexually active, past menopause, or have had a hysterectomy.
40,000 women die from breast cancer every year. It is the 5th leading cause of death among women. Help change those statistics.