It has come to my attention that many of you women are afeared of mammograms. So having just had one (not my first), I’ll talk you through them. I don’t remember anyone doing this for me. My mother – who has had breast cancer – had always said they were fine. And that was it. Other women of my acquaintance, and indeed my friends, were either saying it hurt a bit, or a lot. Either way, I know it left me in a lot of fear. Fear that it will hurt, but then there’s the other fears. Fears that range from the really primal, to the very banal. That they’ll find something; that your breasts are too large or too small for the machine; oh, and that it will hurt. My breasts are large, so I was always worried there’d be a bit much for the machine, and that my breast tissue was so dense that they wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway. I needn’t have worried about any of that.
I don’t know what other womens’ personal worries are and Ican’t do much about the more primal fears – we all have them – and I can’t do much about your personal space or body issues. But I hope I can at least alleviate some of the fear around the process: the machinery, what it all looks like. That sort of thing.
Private or public, whatever age you are, this is the process. You go into the breast clinic (or the bus) and the women are always superb.They will have all yr details – from doctor/referral/previous visit. You check those, tick boxes relating to history, and that’s the administrative bit over and done with, very quickly.
The radiographer will come to get you – she will be a woman always of gentle nature, and discreet, who will take you into the room.
She will ask you to remove your top. If you wish, there is a robe you can put on. If you have any body issues, leave them at the door. Nobody cares about the size of your breasts, or how pert they are. Whether a nipple is inverted, or sticky-outy. They are only there to scan your breasts, and they talk you through the entire process.
The machine is two flat screens – if you’re like me, let her heft yr breasts where she needs them. First, she’ll take scans of the front view. I never find these uncomfortable. She will place your breast on the flat….ask you to lean in a bit and put yr bottom out slightly, hold yr other breast out of the way. Let her position you, and relax your shoulders. That bit’s important.
Here comes the “squash”. Not at all uncomfortable. Really. You’ll be asked to breathe in for a couple of seconds and then that’s done. Then you’ll do it with the other side.
Now to your side views. This is slightly uncomfortable but only for a couple of seconds. Stand sideways to the machine turning your feet slightly inwards. You will need to lean and grasp a handle, like leaning on a piano.This is slightly uncomfortable because she has to get the picture as close to the breastbone as possible. And then, the other side. When she takes the pictures, you have to hold your breath for just a couple of seconds and really it’s as simple as that. You may or may not need more pictures if the position hasn’t been right, but that’s all that means. Not that they’ve seen something ominous. It’s just a technical thing.
So there you go. That’s a mammogram. It’s easy, and very quick. It’s nothing to be afraid of, and they treat you with great love and care. My lovely radiographer said to me today they have many refugee women in, who don’t have these services in their countries, and she loved how keen they always are to avail themselves.
So if you’re over 40, go along and get one. After you’re 45, they’re free anyway, but you can get them done before that. You can get them done whenever you like. They don’t hurt, they really don’t, and they simply are much better than the alternative.