Hi there, Mrs. 1500 back again for the second day in a row.
So a few weeks back, I wrote about feeling financially guilty because I bought 4 new bras. You ladies responded that $30 a bra isn’t excessive – in fact quite the opposite. I appreciated your responses, and am trying to get over my guilt. I even got rid of those old bras that didn’t fit. Thank you.
Now let’s talk boobs. Specifically, boob healthcare. October is drawing to a close. It is my favorite month, because I was born in October. In fact, my health insurance company sent me a letter, simultaneously wishing me a happy birthday and reminding me that it is breast cancer awareness month, and I should really get a mammogram, now that I am over 40.
Not only am I over 40, but this month marks 3 years since I turned 40. I should have gotten a mammogram 3 years ago, but I put it off. And then it was no longer my birth month (they recommend getting a mammogram during your birth month so you remember) so I pushed it back. Then next October came and went. And the next one.
So now we are in the final days of THIS October, and the letter arrived last week so I called up as soon as I opened it and made an appointment.
I wasn’t looking forward to it. Part of the reason I have put it off so long is that I have heard from multiple people that it hurts. They mash your boob between two plates and it hurts so bad.
I have tattoos. I have body piercings. I had two kids. I’m not a stranger to pain. I don’t know why I was so freaked out about getting a mammogram. It’s not like they start squishing your boob and then go have lunch. And really, unless they are cutting into your flesh, how bad does it really hurt?
Mr. 1500 note: Yep, tattoos and body piercings. Mrs. 1500 went through a rebellious phase. I have zero tattoos (none planned) and absolutely nothing pierced (definitely nothing planned here either). No rebellious phase for me. Wait, is early retirement rebellious?
Rationality was tossed aside when I was thinking about having one. Plus, maybe, I was freaked out about being old enough to need one…
Thank you, Kaiser Permanente. Probably not many people think this thought. Insurance companies are evil, they charge too much, yada yada yada.
But without that letter, I would most likely have let another birth month pass, another year pass, without a mammogram.
I’m not at a high risk. My grandmother on my mom’s side had breast cancer, but I come from a HUGE family, and she is the only one who ever had it. Flukes happen.
So I made the appointment. And I drove there with hesitation dripping off me. Traffic was terrible, which just made me more apprehensive.
I got to the facility, and Tracey introduced herself and walked me back to the changing room. (Note, you aren’t supposed to be wearing deodorant or lotion for a mammogram.) I changed into their little pseudo-gown thingy, and we walked to the mammography room. Tracey told me to forget everything I had ever heard about mammograms. Yeah, right.
The machine doesn’t look like anything I have ever seen before, so describing it is pointless. At chest height, there are two plates. Your boob sits on one, and the other one comes down and…
Here’s where I don’t really know what word to use. Compress makes it sound painful. Ditto smash and moosh. The top plate comes down. It touches your skin, and then keeps going down. Your boob flattens out, but it certainly isn’t painful. It isn’t really even all that uncomfortable. I don’t want to do it for long stretches of time, but for the 9 seconds it takes to capture the image, it isn’t anything worth worrying about.
When she was done with the first side, I was astonished. “Seriously?!? You’re done?” Tracey told me that there were other images we needed to capture, but that particular one was finished.
I felt foolish for having put it off for so long. It was so not-a-big-deal that I cannot believe anyone has ever made such a big deal about it. It took longer to mark off all the moles on my skin (thanks, mom!) than it did to actually take the pictures of my boobs.
As you may have guessed during my bra article, I am larger than your average gal. The tissue is denser, too. Since I have never had a mammogram before, this one is called the baseline, and is what all future mammograms will be compared to. But the most dense areas will be difficult to read, and I may have to go back in for another scan.
Tracey isn’t a radiologist, so she can’t diagnose the results. She did say that tumors start out as the size of the “.” on this page. So small you can’t feel them. But that they show up white in the mammogram, so areas like this (and then she pointed to an area on the screen) will get more scrutiny from the radiologists than regular areas that show up grey in the actual film.
I’m betting that there is nothing to worry about, but I’ll know by Friday. They call if there is an issue. They send a letter if there isn’t. But even if there is an issue, I know it won’t hurt.
So ladies, take Tracey’s advice, and forget everything you know about mammography. It doesn’t hurt. It isn’t even “uncomfortable.” It just is. And it’s about 5 minutes. Take care of yourself, and go get a mammogram.
Mr. 1500 note: Ladies, take care of yourself. My grandmother died of breast cancer. She was in her 80s, so at least she had a nice, long life. My aunt, who also died of breast cancer, didn’t even make it to 40.
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