It’s finally here, the day I have waited for, for at least the past five years…my first mammogram. That might sound odd. Most women don’t look forward to standing pressed up against a machine while it slowly flattens their breasts into pancakes, but I have a history of breast cancer on my mom’s side of the family, and this mammogram is something I advocated for since I turned 30.
When I went to my annual exam with my OB/GYN this year and she mentioned that she wanted to send me for a baseline test, I almost jumped up and cheered. Here I am, 35, preparing for a test that most of my friends have yet to experience. I told them I would report back with details of the event, and that’s when it struck me, you might want to hear about it too.
Making an Appointment
It’s odd because with all the excitement around getting a script for my mammogram, I didn’t run out and schedule one. Part of the reason is I didn’t know where I wanted to go or when. The other part was a little bit of fear. I’ve seen people close to me go through breast cancer treatment. Not scheduling it meant not thinking about it, and knowing I had the referral slip seemed empowering enough.
With encouragement from my doctor’s office and more than a few months giving myself pep talks, I finally made the appointment. Based on my employment status, insurance coverage, and the fact that I was interested in getting a 3D mammogram, I searched the Catholic Health website and found the Steven Piver M.D. Center for Women’s Health and Wellness.
The day finally came, and I decided to bring my friend, Victoria, with me to the appointment. She was a great support, helping me get there on time and keeping me distracted from my nerves.
Finding the M. Steven Piver M.D. Center was easy, since it’s on the same campus as Sisters of Charity Hospital and I was given detailed directions when I made the appointment.
After checking in, I was brought to an intake area just off the waiting room where I was asked questions about health history. Some of them I was expecting and readily knew the answers to:
- Is there a history of breast cancer in your family?
– If so, who had the diagnosis?
– Mother’s side or father’s side?
- Last period (start/end date)
- How many pregnancies have you had?
– How many births?
- Have you had tubal ligation?
- Have you had previous signs of lumps or breast tissue concerns?
- When was your last physical breast exam?
- Do you do self-breast exams?
One question I wasn’t prepared for: Were family members diagnosed with breast cancer pre- or post- menopause? That was information I didn’t realize could be important and had to do a quick timeline and calculations in my head.
I only sat in the waiting room for a few minutes before getting called back to the test room. It was a comfortable size with inviting lighting, and nice artwork decorating the walls.
My technician, Debra, was really sweet and calming. She explained I was having a baseline exam and how it would be used in the future. The Piver Center has a 3D mammography machine and Debra walked me through the process of using it and how long each part would take.
Prepping for a Mammogram
When I set the appointment, I was told to bring my insurance card, photo ID, and script. Prepping for the test also included avoiding lotions, deodorants, and perfumes the day of the appointment.
Looking into whether or not I needed to take any special precautions before the test, I went online seeking advice. I ended up finding mixed information and wasn’t sure what actually applied to me. Talking it over with the mammogram technician, she assured me this was pretty common and that patients should feel free to call the office if they have questions about preparing for the exam.
For a mammogram, you undress from the waist up and drape a cape over yourself. While standing in front of the machine, the tech carefully places your breast on a plastic platform and a top plate lowers to compress it. A robotic arm then moves in an arc to capture multiple images. It only takes a few seconds to capture images, and the whole procedure takes about 10 minutes.
I was surprised to experience most of my discomfort in the muscle wall of my chest/neck. Some women feel it in their breast as well, but I was told those women usually have dense tissue, cysts, or very large breasts.
Debra assured me it would only take about 10 minutes to get my results. I wasn’t expecting same-day results, let alone to find out before I left the office. The images she took were sent to the physician for review and were also analyzed using CAD (computer-aided detection), an FDA-approved technology that looks for abnormalities. Once she gave me my results, she told me they would be sent to my OB/GYN office and I was all set to go.
Besides the anxiety that can come with a cancer screening, the whole process was pretty quick and definitely not as bad as I thought it would be. The kindness and compassion of the people at the Piver Center helped to alleviate some of that stress and so did receiving my results so quickly.
Tips for Your First Mammogram
- Try to schedule your appointment the week after your period. It will help with your breast sensitivity and possible discomfort during the exam.
- Avoid dresses and wear an easy to remove top. That way you don’t have to fully get undressed or fiddle with difficult clothing. You will also be asked to remove jewelry.
- Wear your hair up or bring a hair tie. Hair has to be out of the way for the test. If left down and unsecured, it can make getting images difficult.
- Bring a friend. Although I was eager to have my first mammogram, it was also pretty nerve-racking. Victoria helped me relax and enjoy my day.
Find Mammography Services Near You
Call (716) 923-7152
Find Mammography Services Near You
Call (716) 923-7152