We’ve all heard the comedienne’s version of getting a mammogram. To hear them tell it, this is what you can expect to find in the doctor’s office:
I had my first mammogram a few years ago (you can read more about it here, if you’d like) and it really wasn’t that bad. It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly less uncomfortable than the average Pap smear. If you’re wondering what you can really expect when you go in for a breast x-ray, here’s how it went for me.
First I was shown into a dressing room, much like you would find in a clothing store, right off the exam room. I was given the standard doctor’s office dressing gown, but told to put it on backwards like a robe. When I was ready, the technician came in and escorted me over to The Machine – which actually looks more like this:
Positioning the breast properly in the machine was somewhat awkward, but the tech was entirely professional throughout. She had an air of “I do this every day, it’s just another body part,” and it really helped. I had been worried about having a stranger touching my breasts, but her no-big-deal attitude made me stop thinking “OMG, that’s my boob and I don’t know you” and start thinking “I’m going to stand very still so nothing moves before we get the x-ray.” It also helped that, wearing the gown like a robe, the parts of me that weren’t on the x-ray machine were pretty well covered up.
Once my breast my positioned correctly, she tightened the plates together to flatten it out a bit and keep it in the right spot. The pressure was firm, as in “Boy, I hope I don’t have to stand here like this for very long,” but not “Oh dear lord make it stop” painful. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray, so it takes a little longer to expose than a normal x-ray, but I was still only left standing there for about half a minute before she came back and let me out. After that, it was just reverse and repeat on the other side.
By the time I was done getting dressed, the doctor was back with my preliminary results. He couldn’t give me the official results until the x-rays had been fully examined, of course, but he’d double checked everything and didn’t see anything to warrant further testing. Hearing that was worth any amount discomfort.
I know that some people have had bad mammogram experiences, but I don’t want anyone to avoid doing it because of the bad rap. I had heard a lot of jokes about what an awful experience it was, and how it was something a woman should dread like the plague. In the end, it was something I remember as just another medical test. My hope is that, after reading this, you will feel a little less nervous when it’s time for your first. It’s not nearly as bad as they make it out to be, and knowing that your breasts are cancer free is one of the best feelings in the world.