On Being 50: Mammograms

You know you are 50 when…you get your first appointment for a Mammogram.

I had my first ever Mammogram today.  Except they didn’t call it a Mammogram, they called it breast screening.  The NHS was providing free breast screening for women in my age group.  Ah ha.  I had a few concerns as I have heard from different people that Mammograms can be painful.  I do not like pain and tend to avoid it if possible.

One friend told me that it hurts.  The bigger your breasts are, the more it will hurt.  I was warned.  (She also told me that they treat you like a piece of meat.)  Hmmm.  Well, mine are not really as big as they look – average I would say.  So I was feeling hopeful.

Then, another friend told me she had one a couple of years ago, before she turned 50.  We are about the same size.  She said that she never knew how far one’s breasts can be stretched – and it hurt.  This was not looking positive.

I decided to take the bus and gave myself plenty of time in case there was traffic.  I arrived 20 minutes early.  I was the only one there, so they decided to see me straight away.

I had to answer some questions.

Q:  Are you taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

A:  No.  (There are still a few eggs left in the basket.)

Q:  Have you had Breast operations in the past?

A:  Yes.  I was 19.  They removed a fibroid cyst.  (It was ONLY a cyst they told me.  ONLY a cyst?  I was ONLY 19 years old, thank you very much.  American doctors can be so quick to treat you like a piece of meat and cut you open.  Thank goodness things have improved since then.  At least I was covered with insurance.)

The radiologist took me into another room.  I told her my concerns about pain.  She smiled and tried to reassure me, but she never said it wouldn’t hurt.  She explained what she was going to do and then asked me to remove my top.

I had to stand in front of this machine while she positioned me and my breasts (first the left, and then the right) onto what I can only describe as a vice.  Once I was in the correct position, she then lowered the top plate onto the breast and told me to say when it started to be uncomfortable.  I told her and she stopped tightening the vice.  It didn’t hurt.  It was only uncomfortable.  This was done three more times.  Two different positions on each breast.  It didn’t hurt.  I was surprised and really pleased about that.

The whole time the procedure was taking place, we talked about visiting family in America.  Her father is American and she was born in San Diego and she visits two of her siblings that have moved there.  I also shared with her about growing up in New Jersey and my parents moving to Maryland.  Before I knew it, it was time to put my clothes back on.

As I walked out the door, I saw an acquaintance sitting down and waiting her turn.  Talk about coincidence – we usually bump into each other in the coffee shop or supermarket.  She was just as surprised to see me and asked me how it went.  I told her it was ok.  She wasn’t convinced as she had had one before.  We didn’t have long to chat before she was called in.  I hope it went well for her.

So, all in all, it went very well.  It didn’t hurt and the staff were really lovely.  I just have to wait two weeks before I get my results.

One thought on “On Being 50: Mammograms

  1. Fiona

    🙂 Like the article Arlene ……….. mammograms ARE uncomfotable – but definitely not something to be frightened of and SO necessary – on a scale of 1-10 I would only rate as a 3 or 4 ……… would rather a mammogram than dental work any day – at least you can talk during procedure!!

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