April 12, 2013
Your first mammogram: 10 things to expect
BY Megan Silianoff
As a blogger and cancer survivor, I'm knowledgeable about various topics. My favorite television shows, for example, are an area of my expertise. I'm also very good at shopping and can navigate my favorite mall with poise and purpose.
And, when I got my latest mammogram earlier this month, I was reminded that I'm also an expert at getting this important screening exam.
So, first, I'll tell you this: While mammograms can be life-saving, they aren't fun. But learning about them "David Letterman" style could be. (Which is telling of my expertise in watching talk shows.)
10. Plan to wait in a separate waiting room.
I've had mammograms in a number of different hospitals, and they all have separate waiting rooms for people getting mammograms.
Immediately upon checking in for your appointment, they'll call you back, and you'll think, "I'm going to be in and out of here," but that's not necessarily the case. You're actually just getting called to sit in a different waiting room. This is important to know if someone plans to go with you because you won't see them throughout the entire process.
9. The nurse will take you to a locker room, of sorts, and ask you to undress from the waist up.
You'll get a gown that ties in the back. They'll let you keep your shoes and pants on.
8. They'll put stickers on your nipples and maybe other places on your breasts.
Just to keep things interesting. Or, as the official reasoning goes, so the technician can more easily identify your nipples and any moles in the final images.
7. It won't actually hurt that bad.
I mean, it's hard to say if a mammogram really hurts. Pain is so relative. It's more uncomfortable and embarrassing than painful. I feel like it's less painful than getting blood taken.
6. Expect to be called for supplemental pictures if you're in your 20s or 30s.
This doesn't mean they see anything bad. It just means you have denser breasts, and it's harder to see so they have to take multiple pictures.
5. Expect results sooner or later, depending on why you're there.
If you're getting a mammogram because your doctors found a lump or you already have another type of cancer, you'll get your results right away. If you are there simply for prevention, you won't find out for weeks and it will be by the mail.
4. You'll need a biopsy if they find something suspicious in your mammogram.
Remember, just because they find something they need to biopsy, it doesn't mean you have cancer. I've had tons of biopsies, but have never had breast cancer.
3. Bring a snack, a book and some games.
There's waiting involved. If you're physically and mentally prepared to log some hours reading a book or playing a game, it will make the experience more pleasant.
2. You'll stand in front of a machine, and the nurse will position your arms in various positions.
There will be bars for you to hold on to, no matter what position you're being contorted into. One time I did a position resembling that of the shopping cart dance move, which was exciting for me.
1. Expect that if you're NOT getting yearly mammograms, I'm going to be mad at you.
None of this is glamorous. It's scary. But the thing about breast cancer is that it's all about early detection. If you detect breast cancer in the very early stages, it's a whole different ball game. You can avoid chemotherapy, radiation and all the other stuff that makes breast cancer so grueling.
Megan Silianoff is a 31-year-old writer/blogger living in Houston. When she was 28, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and most recently has undergone an excisional biopsy of her breast. After four surgeries in two years, she's in complete remission. For more about Megan, check out her blog Greetings from Texas and look for out for her memoir available later this year.
None of this is glamorous. It's scary. But the thing about breast cancer is that it's all about early detection.