To kick-off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we'd like to share this story from a team member. It's our hope that increased awareness of breast cancer prevention will lead to more positive experiences for women pursuing healthy lives.
I was sitting across from my doctor at a yearly checkup when she smiled broadly and said, “You’re 40! Happy Birthday! You get to have a mammogram!” Ugh. Really? I had heard about how terrible those things are and in that moment I was not looking forward to it AT ALL.
I decided to make my appointment right away before I began making excuses as to why I couldn’t get to it. Over the next few days, while I waited for my appointment, my thoughts shifted a bit and I started considering how fantastic it was that I was going to have this exam. Yep, you read that right… I said how “fantastic”.
Thinking it Over
I thought about my great grandma and my great, great grandma before her and how they never had this opportunity. If they would have ended up with breast cancer it probably wouldn’t have been detected until it was too late; actually it probably wouldn’t have been detected at all. Then I thought about the 4 friends of mine that have had breast cancer over the last 2 years. According to the American Cancer Society there will be 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women in 2012 and 63,000 new cases of non-invasive (the earliest stage of breast cancer) this year.
Now, as if avoiding the implications of all that bad news wasn’t enough to make me feel better about my exam, this good news from the American Cancer Society is: “Right now there are more than 2½ million breast cancer survivors in the United States" I was about to undergo an exam that contributes to an increasing survival rate among diagnosed women.
This is amazing and wonderful news! Sure, we still have a way to go, but we are definitely well on our way to winning the fight against breast cancer. My friends, who are true heroes in my eyes, were able to get diagnosed early and win their battles against this evil villain. I had to admit; that is pretty darn fantastic!
The Day of
When I entered Northside /Medlock Medical Imaging in Johns Creek, Georgia, the staff was friendly and delightful. They projected a sense of kinship with their patients and it was clear they know this is not a fun exam to have. I could tell they wanted to make it as comfortable as possible mentally and physically. I was handed a warmed gown and asked to change and wait in a very calm environment with nice music.
Once I was called back, I was greeted by Amy, my tech. She had a warm, welcoming smile and explained clearly what was going to happen. I found out that Amy has been doing mammograms for 22 years and, boy did it show. She was an absolute pro.
My exam took place on a Hologic Selenia digital mammography machine, an equipment option our team offers, so it was cool to see firsthand how it works. I explained my connection to the industry and she humored me by showing me the different paddles and explaining some of the improvements digital mammography has made over analog technology. She was a master at positioning me in just the right spot for the shots she had to take. She also didn’t lie to me and say, “This won’t hurt”, but she did say, “There will be a little pressure, then maybe a LOT of pressure”. She also warned me that I could get a call that I need to come back for more, which is pretty common. Because this was my first exam they couldn’t be sure yet what my “normal” looks like. I appreciated that bit of news so that if I got a call I wouldn’t panic.
During the exam I told her that I was thinking of blogging my experience. She got excited to hear this and said that all she seems to hear are the bad experiences people have with their breast exams. Amy: this blog’s for you, because you matter and what you do matters so much! Thanks for making my first mammography experience a great one.
If you’re putting off your breast exam because of stories you’ve heard about discomfort, pain, or panic-inducing follow-up calls, don’t put it off any longer. Whether you’re alarmed by the diagnosis statistics I mentioned earlier, or heartened by the survival rate, the reasons to act soon are compelling. Besides, if your story plays out like mine, the staff at your local imaging center will do everything they can to keep you comfortable. A mammogram only takes 10 minutes and can make a huge impact on your life.
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