I recently submitted a piece to Girl Blog, a community where girls and women can come together to share stories in a safe and inclusive space. I wrote it under the pseudonym Menopausal Marge, because at my age I’m solidly in the “Woman” camp and not likely to be accidentally placed in the “Girl” group, and I was thrilled to see that it posted today. If things go well, I hope to do more articles, simultaneously educating and terrifying the youngsters with stories of what to expect as they go marching toward middle-age.
What It’s Really Like to Get a Mammogram
BY MENOPAUSAL MARGE
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if men were screened for testicular cancer the same way women are for breast cancer, a new method would have been developed immediately after the first test was performed. If that doesn’t make sense to you, it will by the time you’re done reading this article.
Depending on your age, your family history, and your general health, you may be decades away from your first mammogram. By then, the perky breasts that now sit high on your chest, nipples proudly aimed straight ahead, pointing the way for you, will likely have grown weary and decided that directing you toward the floor is a much easier way to go through life. True, this newly relaxed state makes them more amenable to the pushing and prodding they’ll endure during the mammogram, but not much.
Something I’ve found is that the imaging staff take their jobs very seriously. While I feel the ordeal calls for the injection of some levity, the people I’ve encountered seem to disagree. For instance, I once visited a mobile imaging lab parked outside a Women’s Health Center. Poking my head inside, I asked, “Is this the mamm-o-van?” They were less than amused.
Once at the no-nonsense imaging center, you’ll be provided one of those blue paper gowns famous for the comfort and modesty they provide. You’ll then enter the room where you’ll get your first look at the machine. It looks harmless enough. A tower around six feet tall, supporting two stacked trays, topped by what looks like a tank. It resembles a high-tech frozen yogurt dispenser.
You’ll be directed to stand in front of the trays, and this is where the fun begins. Know that the imaging technician will do all the work. Know also that before beginning the procedure, she will have soaked her hands in ice water for approximately seven and a half hours.
With her well-chilled hands, she will take your breast and arrange it on the bottom tray. Your breast must be perfectly located, and she will pull and push and stretch you until she is satisfied with its placement. It’s a little rough and impersonal but, if you’re like me, it’s probably the most first base action you’ve had in a long time.
Unfortunately, a lovely arrangement isn’t good enough for a clear interior boob pic. Your breast must be thin, it must be compressed, it must be smashed. So, the technician lowers the top tray toward the bottom with your tender bits caught in-between and crushes until the result looks like the spawn of an unholy union between your breast and a pancake.
The downward-press is followed by the sideways-squeeze, then the whole procedure is repeated on the other now-terrified breast.
Fortunately, it’s a relatively quick procedure and, and at worst (bad results excluded), you suffer through the moderately uncomfortable medical breast torture. And at best, you might find out you’re kinda into it.