This past week, I scheduled my yearly appointment at they gynecologist to get a pap smear before going back to work in September. Prior to being examined, I answered a series of routine questions about my health and the medications that I am currently taking in order to get my doctor up to date on everything.
One of the questions asked if there is a history of breast cancer in my family and I remembered to jot down that my paternal great-grandmother died from it. It never occurred to me that this would bring up the whole issue of having a mammogram with my gynecologist. After all, women don’t have to start having them until they are forty, right?
Apparently I was wrong because my doctor explained to me, as we debriefed in her office after my physical exam, that she likes to schedule an initial mammogram consultation for patients who are 35 if they have any kind of family history of breast cancer. I was faced with the following choice: Have a mammogram now and if everything shows up fine not have another one until age 40 or just wait until I’m 40 to have one.
Honestly, it took me a few minutes to absorb all that information. I guess I just had never considered that it would be necessary for me to have a mammogram prior to turning 40. After all, I’m 36 and I have already had to face having one kind of cancer at age 30 when I was diagnosed with Leukemia so hearing about being screened for another type was somewhat daunting.
Unsure of what decision to make, I asked my doctor for her advice and she shared with me that she thought it would be a good idea to just have an initial mammogram consultation now just to make sure everything is okay. I know how important early detection is so I took her word for it and was lucky enough to schedule a mammogram for that same day.
For those of you who have never had a mammogram, it honestly is not as scary as you think it is. They asked me to take off my top and my bra at the imaging place and made me put on a gown which opened in the front. When I entered the mammogram room, the technician was very kind and made me feel at ease right away. She proceeded to open each side of my gown and get different images of my breasts from a few angles.
Aside from having to put your breast on a fixed x-ray plate and then having it flattened like a pancake by an adjustable plastic plate from the top, the only other slight inconvenience or discomfort was being undressed in a cold room. Really ladies, it was not painful at all and it was over fairly quickly. That is a small price to pay for your life, in my opinion.
If you are a woman age 40 or older, you should be having a mammogram every year.* In some cases, like mine where there is a family history of breast cancer, your doctor might advise you to have one done sooner. As a person who is already living with one cancer due to early detection, I would always advise you to take heed to your doctor’s warnings. There is nothing to be afraid of, everything is going to be okay…
*Disclaimer - We are not medical professionals and any statements we make are based on our own experiences and are not meant to be taken instead of medical advice from a licensed medical professional.
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