Thursday, December 01, 2005


I was going to call this post “Breasts,” but decided that I didn’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. This is a family site.

Those who have gone through it will know what the title means, though. Today I experienced a rite of passage in which I left the last wisps of my youth behind and officially entered middle age: I had my first mammogram.

(I’m tempted to add: Today I am a pancake.)

I went to a comprehensive clinic that performs a mammography, a manual exam and an ultrasound. The clinic, which is located in a new building, is beautifully kept and especially sensitive to the need for privacy; for example, even though the waiting room and the area where clients pay their bills and discuss administrative matters occupy the same physical space, an effective divider separates them. The medical and administrative staff were, for the most part, friendly and supportive, and overall it was a positive experience. (The ultrasound was fascinating. The image on the screen looked like waves on the ocean, and the doctor said that many patients were reminded of the same image.)

Now to the question that some of you must be asking: What about the mammogram? Did it hurt? I won’t try to sugar-coat the facts: yes, it did. Having my breasts put into a machine that slowly squashed them horizontally and vertically by turns was no fun at all, and actually, for a time it put me in mind of certain unpleasant facets of life during the Middle Ages. Also, the woman who performed my mammogram wasn’t exactly sympathetic (even if I was being a bit of a wimp, I still think she could have been a bit more compassionate). It was also a bit disillusioning: Good grief, was it for this that I read all those Judy Blume books when I was twelve? They never told me about this when I went shopping for my first training bra. But seriously, it wasn’t so bad after all. The squeezing part was actually very brief, and the doctor pointed out that it’s very important. “Not squeezing doesn’t do you any favors,” he said, and I see his point.

So now that I know what a mammogram is like, will I be doing it again? Absolutely. The clinic I went to has a waiting list of approximately six months, so half a year from now I’ll be calling for my next appointment, and I’ll be seeing them—or, more accurately, they’ll be seeing me—next year.

I left with good news: all the results were negative. But a friend of mine, herself a survivor of breast cancer, asked me to add that although it’s important to get a mammogram at the proper time, women shouldn’t consider it a substitute for proper breast self-examination. She should know; that’s how she discovered her own illness. (Thank God, she is fine today.)

By the way, there is such a thing as male breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has more information about it.

Also, daily clicks at The Breast Cancer Site help provide mammograms to women who can’t afford them.

Now I think I’ll rest for a bit ... and decompress from the experience.

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