There are 3 things women universally dread: the day we realize some asshole stopped manufacturing our favourite jeans, a pap smear and a mammogram. In that exact order. Always. Last week I experienced number three on the list. The mammogram. The boob tube. The knocker rocker. The breast test quest.
Yes indeed, welcome to my mammogram.
So for those of you who are worried, concerned, afraid, nervous or curious about what a mammogram is *really* like, join me during the fun filled experience of mine.
In Canada you don’t have to get a mammogram until you’re 50 years old. That’s because the government is trying to save money not lives. But if you want to or have any history of breast cancer in your family you can ask your doctor to get one earlier. 40 is a popular age for your first if you have a history of breast cancer. My aunt had breast cancer so I told my doctor I’d like to get one.
The only instructions you have to follow when you’re getting a mammogram is to wear a top and pants so you can take your top off and still be clothed on the bottom when you go in. Of course you could always wear a dress, be completely naked and schedule a colonoscopy for the same day and be ready for anything. Oh! And don’t wear deodorant that day because it’s possible it will have metals in it that will interfere with the x ray.
So now you’re ready to leave your house in your pants, top and unprotected underarms (that are already getting a sideways glance from the cats because you’re nervous about getting your first mammogram). Everything’s off to a good start.
I went to a brand new clinic, The Breast Assessment centre, a subsidiary of Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ontario. It’s beautiful. It had a very sparse, Japanese type design to it so the minute I walked in the doors I felt good. Like I was taking my boobs for a special spa treatment.
Your place may not be like mine but it was a really nice way to get the mammogram underway for me. The beautiful surroundings made me more self conscious about feeling like I had seeping garbage smell coming from my underarms. If I were in a Bangladeshi slum my smell at least could have blended a little.
Now that I had walked in and indiscriminately started taking pictures of the waiting room, with my arms clapped as tight to my sides as possible, it was time for me to check in.
I arrived at 12:35 for my 12:45 appointment. Mainly I was there early because I was so looking forward to it. And by it I’m referring to the moment I returned home and could put deodorant on. I was checked in, taken to the change room and given my gown within minutes.
As of yet no one had pointed to, commented on or made notice of my breasts in any way. In fact they probably got more attention on my last trip to the grocery store.
I had to remove everything on top and kept my jeans and boots on. And my necklace. Just because you’re about to have a mammogram doesn’t mean you can’t be fancy.
Even though the clinic is new and beautiful they didn’t have actual gowns for mammograms yet which means that I had to put on a regular, flimsy hospital gown worn backwards. Which means there was no way to do it up so that it covered anything. I could have held it together with both my hands but I had one hand in my pocket and the other one hailing a taxi cab. Wait, no. That’s not right. I had one hand on my iPhone, taking pictures. That’s right. I was only walking out into a very small, private waiting room with no other people in it, but still. I wanted to be covered up. Enter the winter scarf tied as a jaunty belt. It was at this moment I wondered why I had never taken up Russian dancing. I looked around the change room to see if anyone knew of a good Russian dancing school but no one else was around. Typical of this day I was having. Here I was ready to establish what was obviously my next career and I couldn’t do anything about it because of these stupid boobs. Today was boob day. Tomorrow I’d look into the Russian dancing.
As soon as I finished my change room photoshoot I came out into the hall, ready to sit down in the waiting room but the lovely Beth said my name and asked me to follow her.
Beth was my X Ray technologist. She’s be the one lifting, moving and squishing my boobs for the mammogram. I immediately felt as though Beth could be trusted with my most prized possessions: the breasts of a woman who hasn’t had children. Sadly no one ever sees them. Conversely everyone sees the two warts on the end of my ankles, otherwise known as feet.
Here’s Beth. Beth is about to ask me to step towards the big, biting machine so it she can set it up to properly gnaw down on each of my boobs.
A mammogram takes 4 pictures in total. One of each boob with you standing straight in front of the machine the way it is now …
And two with the machine in this tilt-a-whirl position.
Beth positions where you need to go to then lifts, shoves and gently rolls everything where it needs to be to get the best image. Then the machine bears down automatically to a certain point. When it stops squishing, Beth turns a hand crank to get it a bit tighter for good measure.
You’re also given an X ray blocking pad (total technical term) to protect your lady guts. I’m pretty sure I’m past the point of ever deciding to have children, but the X ray blocking pad would help ensure they didn’t come out looking like E.T., I would imagine. But that’s just a guess.
I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking that girl has ENORMOUS elbows. And I agree. But I think it was just a bad camera angle.
What about the pain?
If you have big boobs it will hurt less because you have fat cushioning them.
A lot of the pain factor depends on your technologist and how heavy handed they are with the squishing part.
If you go during your period it will likely hurt more because your breasts are more sensitive at that time. If that’s the case you can reschedule your appointment.
If you are nervous and tense it will hurt more because the chest muscles laying under your boob will be tensed up.
Around 1/3rd of women say a mammogram is very painful.
Which means 2/3rds or over 66% do not find it painful. Which is the majority of women.
Did I find it painful? No. No I did not.
The whole procedure, in and out takes about 15 minutes if you don’t have any waiting in the waiting room. That’s from the minute I got in the place until I got out. Now, it took me a bit longer because I was taking pictures and showing off my boobs, and looking for a good Russian dancing coach, but for most people it will be a quick, 15 minute visit.
Results generally take about a week. I don’t have mine yet but I’m looking forward to getting them. I’m also looking forward to getting a Yugo.
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