Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My First Mammogram, Part Two

Yesterday, a LifeBridge Health patient shared about her background and why she needed a diagnostic mammogram. In Part Two, she talks about her experience of getting a mammogram for the first time. To read Part One, click here.

While getting insurance coverage was easy for me, what was not so carefree was dealing my inherent fear of mammograms. I remember when my mom got her first mammogram at age 40 and the horror with which she relayed the experience to my dad. (She used the word “pancakes.”) Even my doctor told me to take two Tylenol beforehand, as getting a mammogram would be “excruciating.” On the other hand, two other women told me that mammograms did not hurt them. So along with my fear, I was also very curious about a procedure that could be described in such different terms.

I spent much of my time in the waiting room worried. Not worried about my lump, mind you; I was worried about the mammogram. I couldn’t even focus my mind well enough to read. All I could do is look at pictures in a fashion magazine.

Therefore it came as a shock when I had a very comfortable mammogram. Easy peasy. I think there were several reasons for this. For one, I chose the Herman & Walter Samuelson Breast Care Center at Northwest Hospital, where they have MammoPad® -- a warm, foam cushion that prevents one’s breast from being pressed against cold, hard metal during the x-rays. They use a new pad for each woman, so it’s completely sanitary. The pad doesn’t interfere with the images produced, so it’s also cleared by the FDA. (Having never had a mammogram with a MammoPad, my mom told me that she wishes she could get one, as she thinks it would make the mammogram a lot more comfortable.)

I also scheduled my mammogram for a time during the month shortly after my period, when my breasts would be less fibrous and not as tender. To prepare for the mammogram, I avoided caffeine (I postponed my daily cup of coffee until afterward), and I took two Tylenol as my doctor had advised.

The mammography tech was extremely nice, and she put me at ease as she was positioning me for the mammogram. The machine also didn’t compress my breasts as tightly as I expected it to. The process went so smoothly that I now know that my fears about mammograms were unfounded. While I think it definitely helps for pre-menopausal women to schedule their mammograms at the ideal part of their cycle, next time I will consider forgoing the Tylenol.

My mammogram didn’t find anything urgent, and because I’m very young, the breast ultrasound gave the radiologist better information about my particular situation. However, I no longer fear the test that may one day save my life.

If you’ve had a mammogram, what was your first one like? Have you used the MammoPad before? Sound off in the comments below.

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