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So in September of 2018 I turned 40 and this means a new step in preventative care. I needed to schedule my first screening mammogram. Now, I know that mammogram’s have come a long way since first invented. This still did not prevent me from being nervous. My best friend actually had hers done a few weeks before I even scheduled mine. I was going to the same place so I knew a bit about what to expect. I looked online and stuff to see what was out there. Logically I knew there was nothing to be nervous about but I still was.
Going to get first mammogram
Part of my nervousness was that my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 45. So there is a history of breast cancer in my family. Now my mom was lucky and it was easily taken care of and has been cancer free ever since. Still this made me a bit more nervous going in. I made sure I was not wearing any deodorant or anything (I am allergic to perfumes anyway) and that I wore a 2 piece outfit so I would only have to remove my top. I had arrived early and was happy that the imaging center had water and some hot chocolate available to help calm my nerves. The imaging center has done a nice job of making their waiting area kind of calming.
I only had a to wait a few minutes before I was called back. They showed me to a small room with a bench that had built in drawers that you can lock your possessions up if you want. On the bench there were some products you could use to help freshen up if needed, a pillow and a mirror. They also include your “super cape” because you know are are super woman by getting these done. They also include a warm robe so if you are chilled or a bit modest you can cover/warm up. It was a very nice touch to help make patients a little more at ease.
So the tech took me into the room with a mammogram machine. They had a nice chair to sit in while they asked needed questions. Asked if this was my first mammogram, asked if I did self exams or at least have had a breast exam done by my doctor (which I had the day before when I had my yearly with a pap). They asked if I had a family history of breast cancer and I let them know about my mom . I had forgotten to get how old she was. So if you have a history and it is possible, find out how old the person was when diagnosed. Then she took some time to explain what was going to happen.
What to expect
She let me know that she would be taking at least 4 images, 2 of each breast. One from the top/bottom and then they rotate the machine a bit and kind of do a side view. Now personally I found the pressing of my breasts a little uncomfortable, however that only lasted a few seconds. During the scan they do a lot of handling of your breasts and that can feel a bit uncomfortable.
If you are a mom and breast fed or at least tried this might not be as big of a deal. That did not bother me since when I was trying to breast feed I had nurses and lactation consultants handling my breasts while trying to help me. During the scans I did have some pain under my breast but I did not speak up. During the scan I just figured this was normal because they have to pull and stuff. It hurt when they did my right breast and was worse with my left. I thought it was because they had to do an extra scan of the left.
When I went back to the changing area I lifted up my breast because it still hurt and that is when I saw I was bleeding. I asked the tech for a wet cloth to clean up the blood. The only thing she said to me was wow and got me some triple antibiotic ointment and some damp gauze pads to put under there for protection. Unfortunately this ruined our plans to take munchkin swimming since I was not getting into chlorine water with open sores under my breast.
When I got home I sent a message to the imaging center to find out if there was latex used on the machine. My reason for thinking that was because I have a minor latex allergy that effects my skin. If I use bandages with latex in them they rip skin off. I was informed no and they asked why so I told them. The next day the director had a breast specialist call and follow up with me. It was at this time that she let me know that she has seen it before. Because they do so much handling of the breast and sometimes it can be rough, there are times when the skin rips a bit. That part of your breast is at the corner of the machine.
I don’t tell you this to scare you or make you more nervous. I am sharing this to tell you to SPEAK UP. During your scan if something hurts SPEAK UP. Don’t make the mistake I did of assuming that the pain I was feeling was normal. I did some more research and it is ok to let the tech know if something is hurting or bothering you. Sometimes with the positioning the machine hits in a weird spot and the tech can re position.
Follow up Appointment
So my appointment was on a Thursday and early the next week I got a call from my doctor that they want me to go in for a breast ultra sound and possible diagnostic mammogram (which is different from a screening). The only reason this did not automatically freak me out was because my best friend also had to go back.
While doing my second round of research I found this is very common. The reason this happens a lot especially after your very first mammogram is they have nothing to compare to. After your first one they can compare all future ones to the first to see what is normal for your breasts. I let them know that I would schedule the ultra sound. If they ended up needing to do a diagnostic mammogram I would wait for another week. I wanted to give my breasts time to heal more, be your own advocate.
What are the potential outcomes
A diagnostic mammogram takes longer because they take the scans, show them to a radiologist who is on hand then come back and take more based on what the radiologist sees. This can happen multiple times. Once they are done you will be told 1 of 3 things.
- All good and don’t have to worry about it again till next year.
- Most likely all good but want to see you back in 6 months
- Need to have a biopsy done on something they found.
Any time you have something new done (procedure/test) it can be hard to know what is normal and what is not. No matter what if you are feeling pain or unsure if the discomfort is normal during a procedure/test SPEAK UP and ask, be your own advocate. Either they will tell you it is normal or can help adjust if possible to alleviate the problem.
Be on the look out for the next part of this article. I will be sharing my experience getting my breast ultrasound and subsequent breast biopsy.