Having a family history of breast cancer means that you get a first class ticket to a Mammogram, without having to reach the age of 40.  I was recently given my ticket and happily went to the show.  What’s it all about you ask?  Pull up a chair and I’ll do my best to inform you of what might happen to you, when you get your ticket.  And if you do get sent for a mammogram – go.  The only thing scarier than going and waiting for those results is not going until it’s too late.

You may or may not know that when you go for a mammogram you will be asked to strip from the waist up and you’ll get your breast squished as flat as a pancake compressed by a machine.


It’s kind of weird.  The technician has to place your breast in the exact position and it means a lot of body positioning to go with it.  Think about the last time you had your photo taken professionally.  There was probably a little bit of “turn your shoulders to the right”, “tilt your head up”, “turn your chin to the left” guidance given.  Same thing at a mammogram, only instead of calling out directions, the technician moved me into place.  Shoulders here.  Ribcage there. Arm here.  Chin there.  Breast here.  Squishing begins and hold it, hold it, hold it – say cheese!  Done.  Pain? No.  Discomfort?  A little.  I didn’t find it a big deal.  The most discomfort I had was due to the machine digging into my chin in one instance and into my ribs in another instance.

I happen to be one of those people who got called back after the films were shot.  I feel it’s safe to say that for any first-time mammogram test takers, it’s un-nerving to get a call saying you have to come back.  What did they find?  Do I have cancer?  being some of the more common thoughts that run through one’s mind.  Well, I went back.  And this time I had to have an ultrasound and more mammography shots taken.

The ultrasound was an ultrasound.  If you’ve ever had one done before, it was just like that, only on your breast.  If you haven’t had one before, then you lie down, arm up over your head and the technician squirts (hopefully warm!) ice cold gel on your breast.  The ultrasound device is moved over the gel to spread the gel around and then the picture appears on the tv-type screen and the tecnician starts to take measurements on the screen and capture images while moving the device around.  After a few minutes you’re done and the most challenging part of this test is trying to get all of the gel off your body using the small wipe/paper towel that they hand to you.

After a few minutes of waiting, I was ushered into a mammogram room for another mammogram.  This one was similar to the first.  They took several scans of my breast and then they changed the part on the machine.  I don’t know what they’re called so I’ll call them plates.  There is a top plate that is removable.  This was changed from a large rectangular one to a small circular one.  The rectangular one is quite large.  I think it may have been 8 1/2″ by 11″ or larger.  The circular plate was slightly larger in circumference than a pop can. It was clearly not meant to cover anyone’s entire breast.  Keep in mind that the purpose of the breast compression is to try to spread out the tissue so the scan provides a clear picture of the breast tissue and any significant abnormalities.  In my case, they wanted a close look at one specific spot and had to manoeuver my breast in more directions than I would have thought possible, to get a clear shot.  They really needed to spread the tissue in a small area, hence the smaller circular plate. The mammogram with the small plate hurt.  Quite a bit.  The technician was quite understanding when I asked to stop between shots.   I needed to grab a breath or two and calm down.  Finally it was over and the wait began.  I did manage to find out that if it was something urgent, my doc would get a phone call from the lab, that day.  And then, I would get a call from my doc that day.  I also managed to find out (it’s amazing what a crapload of patient hysteria can bring out in a technician) that whatever they thought they saw the first time, wasn’t a big deal.

I had my follow-up appointment with my doc this week.  They did find a benign nodule measuring less than 5 mm.  Apparently in this case, a “benign nodule” means fibrous tissue.  Not tumour.  Not cancer.  All good.   Back in 6 mos for a re-exam just to ensure everything is cool.


1 Comment

  1. […] my 6 month recall for a mammogram.  If you were here back in September you saw my rather calm post here, detailing the situation.  I re-read the post and can’t believe how the hysteria associated […]

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