September 28, 2006

Let Me Tell You About My Mammography!

Posted in doctors, health, mammography at 7:05 pm by way2much

I went for my first mammography last Friday.

I wasn’t sure if I should go.

My nurse practitioner advised that I should have a base-line mammography done since I was 36. She recommends that patients should have an initial test done at age 35. She was surprised that my gynecologist did not order one for me.  I explained to her that I will be seeing that doctor the following month but my NP prescribed it anyway saying that she didn’t want to leave it to my other doctor.

Fast forward to my gynecologist appointment.  My doctor is horrified that my NP ordered a mammography for me. She continues to tell me that younger doctors are too easily sending patients for these tests and that I do not need it. She doesn’t like the idea of radiation if there is no need for it.  I explained to her that I do have history of breast cancer in my family. She replies by saying that at age 60 (my grandmother) was bound to get some form of cancer! Women should get a mammo done 10 years younger than the youngest member of the family when the cancer was discovered. So technically, I should have my first one at 50. BUT in all actuality woman should have their FIRST mammography at age 40 – so shame on me if I waited to age 50 anyway. In summary, she thought 36 was too young and I would be so full of radiation by the time I am 60, I would be bound to get some other illness due to it. She didn’t think it was worth it.

I became confused.

Then I decided.

Go for the baseline mammo now. See the results – if they are good, wait until I am 40 for my next test or unless I feel something unusual before then.  If the results are not good, well, naturally we would go from there. (And it would be a good thing that I did go for the test!)

So Friday, I go to the lab with all my forms in tow. I do not wait long; they call my name. I need to strip down from my waist up. I got to put these cute little nipple markers on me! They are like little band-aids for my nipple. They have a metal bead (tiny) in the center. This marks where my nipple is so the technician reading the results can map out my breasts. Nipples do not show up on the X-Ray. Nifty – hah!

So I put the robe on, tie in the front. I step into the small room. [Follow this link to see a picture of the machine and for all  information regarding this test.] The technician asks me to open the robe and place my breast on the machine. She takes one look at me and decides to go with the bigger film.  I wait.  She replaces the film and gently places my breast back on the slab. She presses a button and automatically the top part comes down and presses down on my breast. I was expecting pain, but there was none. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was cold!

She repeats this procedure with my right breast. Then she says she needs a side shot. And she does other things to get the film for that. Again, no pain, no discomfort. This concerned me. Would the film come out? Did she compress me enough to see everything? Why doesn’t it hurt? I heard so many nightmare stories. Were they from all small chested woman? Is that why? In this case, does size make a difference??!!

She asks me to stay in the room until the film is developed just to make sure it came out. She barely sticks her head in the room and says, “you could go now”. Hmm.  She was very friendly in the room and yet, she abruptly tells me I can go. Did she see something on the film and didn’t want to upset me? I become nervous, because that is what I do.

I go back out to the waiting room. My daughter is surprised I was out so soon. She was trying to read her book, but the realtor waiting in the room with her disturbed her reading by talking too loud on his cell phone! We leave the building and I put all thoughts of the tests and its result out of my head.

Today I got the results in the mail.

There are no signs of cancer. My results are negative. I won’t be going for another test until I am 40!

But just recently Quest Diagnostics was in the news. They messed up someone’s results. She underwent a lumpectomy and chemo only to find out she never had breast cancer.  They messed up the results – swapped with another patient. So while this woman thought she was ill, another woman received good news that she wasn’t! The lab insists that this particular woman had another test done because her doctor was not satisfied and she did in fact find out she was ill. But naturally, no one can follow up on that due to patient confidentiality. They cannot disclose her records. One can only hope this is true. And I can only hope they didn’t mess up my results.

So remember ladies, do your self exams every month. If everything is OK, still get your mammo at least every 2 years starting at 40 (minimum). And if you spot a difference – whether you are only 18 or you are 77, get it checked out further. Early detection is key to your life. The sooner you find it, the earlier you can treat it, the better your chances of survival.

Don’t be stupid! Your life depends on it. Bless you always!