I turned 40 years old last July and my OB/GYN had scheduled my first mammogram for that summer. I didn't go. A part of me was pretty resistant to the procedure for a number of reasons. I knew it would be unpleasant, I was afraid of what could happen, I wanted to remain blissfully naïve, and also I simply didn't prioritize it in my planner.
After feeling some sensitivity in my breasts, I felt my body telling me it was time. So I scheduled my appointment and finally got it done. I learned a few things and want to share with you what you might expect, if you're like me and unsure if you're ready to take that step
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Before the Squeeze
After I checked in, the nurse handed me a paper gown that was to be worn just on top, open side front. But before it was time to change she asked me a few questions and had me fill out a form. Some were basic, like about my menstrual cycle and if this was my first visit. Some I wasn't ready for, like family history of breast cancer.
I mentioned to the nurse that I had breast augmentation surgery in 2007. With that information, she grabbed another form for me to fill out. This form was basically saying there was a risk of my breast implants to rupture during the mammogram, and if that happened, that I assume responsibility for any replacement or explant surgery. That was actually alarming to me and in that moment I had to measure the risk of either; potentially having my implants rupture, or not discovering whether or not I was at risk for breast cancer.
What helped me go forward with the mammogram was the fact that I have 2 aunties on my maternal side who have gone through breast cancer, so there is familial history. I rather know where I stand now at 40, and deal with any breast implant issues now, than wait until later. And waiting just gives a chance for any potential cancer to grow while also risking being in less physical shape to deal with surgeries or treatments. Essentially, my age right now is an asset.
So in getting started with the actual mammogram imagery, the nurse exited so I could remove my top to put on the paper gown. She came back to the room and placed a lead "skirt" around my waist via velcro (similar to the vest placed on your chest during dental x ray). I also was given a wipe to remove my deodorant (as that can show up on the x-ray)
My nurse was kind and very informative, explaining the process to me and answering any questions I had. She had me step up to the machine and instructed me how to stand and where to place my face and arms out of the way.
Breasts are x-rayed one at a time and the nurse herself adjusted my breast with her gloved hand. The machine is "closed" onto your breast pretty firmly, but not beyond what you can handle. She told me I could let her know if I wasn't ok. I really appreciated how she helped me feel at ease through an awkward experience.
Once the breast is "pressed" into the machine, she steps away to take the image and asked me to hold my breath during those few seconds. Once the image is taken you can breathe and the machine releases.
One thing to mention is, as someone with breast implants, a second set of images are taken with the implant "pushed aside". The nurse basically pinches just the breast tissue and takes another set of images. So if you have implants, look forward to bonus time in there (wink, sigh)
I'm not gonna lie, it's uncomfortable, but ladies it doesn't last long, and it was overall bearable. After images were taken, the nurse showed me what the x-rays looked like then and there and let me know to expect results in a few days.
Some Tips for Your Visit
Breast Cancer Prevention
The American Cancer Society recommends you begin screening at age 40 but I think its also a personal preference. If you have close family history of breast cancer and you feel compelled to get checked, follow your gut and go when you feel is needed.
If you are not comfortable with the risk of radiation, make your own informed choice whether or not you are ready for a mammogram or feel safer waiting.
As a Beautycounter Consultant, I know that the products we put on our skin can affect our health and choosing safer personal care products, eliminates a lot of our exposure to toxins.
Beautycounter partners with the Keep A Breast Foundation and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, both excellent resources for how to stay healthy, what to avoid, or how to live with a Breast Cancer diagnosis.
BCCP has a project called the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics that is also informative and engaging.
I hope this article was informative for you and if you haven't gone in for your first mammogram but are considering it, that I've helped you feel more comfortable about what to expect. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Finally, if you are looking to switch out some of your personal care products for safer, please connect with me. I'd love to help simplify the process for you and support you getting started. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am not a medical professional and this article is not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any disease. Please always seek guidance from your doctor and do your research with credible sources.
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Malia was born and raised in Kaneohe, Hawaii and graduated from Azusa Pacific University. She spent the majority of her career as an Early Childhood Education Teacher/Administrator.