Mammogram – what should I expect?
Why should I have one?
A mammogram is one of the central pillars of breast cancer detection and alongside regular self-examination can detect breast cancer really early giving one the best chance of a cure. In fact, the mammograms they do now can detect early signs of cancer even before you can see or feel any change in the breast itself.
If you live in the UK and you hit 50 you will get invited for a regular NHS mammogram every 3 years. The mammogram is not compulsory but as an ex-nurse and someone who believes in medicine and the scientific research that underpins it, I would urge you to seriously consider having one when you are offered it. I know there are a lot of bogus health websites out there so I would urge you to check out something that is actually based on real science as opposed to ‘woo‘. I mean please feel free to place an onion marinated in cannabis oil in your shoe or wave a bit of rose quartz around but do it while you have a proper check up. Have a look here at this super helpful page by the lovely folks at Cancer Research.
What to expect
I received my letter bearing the joyous news that my Valentine’s Day gift from the NHS was getting the chance to once again place my tits inside a cold x-ray machine which works in a way similar to a workbench vice. I’m probably not selling this am I? Bear with me.
So, Valentine’s morn I kiss my spouse goodbye and head to the mobile Breast Screening Unit which looks like the rear end of an articulated lorry and is conveniently parked in the car park at Morrisons so you can go shopping and buy yourself a nice cake or something as a treat for being brave in the unit. I digress, having been distracted by thoughts of cake.
On arrival I was greeted by a radiologist who took me into a tiny office, confirmed my details and asked a few brief questions; had I noticed any problems and that sort of thing. After this you get put into a small cubicle where you take your top clothing off (so make sure you wear a top and skirt or trousers rather than a dress!) and your bra and then replace one top to keep you covered. After a very brief wait, you are then called to the x-ray room where the fun stuff happens.
After you’ve removed your top the radiologist basically positions each breast in turn onto the machine. The first film is a top to bottom view so the breast is flatted from the top down – a bit like a sandwich toaster. After this they do the same thing but from side to side. The whole thing took about 10 minutes and the machine itself is automatic so once she has it in place and ready to go all she has to do is press a button. The machine whirrs, moves up and down the breast and then releases.
I am not going to say it is the most pleasant thing and the sideways view is a bit mean, but it literally lasts less than 20 seconds. The NHS mammogram is free at the point of delivery and it does save lives! You will receive the result within 2 weeks.
What I am saying is – go! There really is nothing to worry about!
Video: What it is like to have a mammogram by UK Cancer Research