The Mammogram – A Menopausal Delight

By on February 16, 2018
mammogram breast cancer ribbon

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 Mammogram breast examinationmammograms 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 




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The Ovaries’ Revenge…and other Menopausal Mishaps

By on November 8, 2017
Credit Dominic Alves

Or how my ovaries deliberately came back to life for no apparent reason.

So 15 months on and I was finally through ‘the change’ – or so my treacherous ovaries would have had me believe.  Imagine my surprise – nay,  horror – to find signs of my used-to-be monthly visitor.  ‘No’, I said.  ‘I am imagining it’, I said.  Until the arrival of the Crimson Tide meant I could no longer live in denial.

I Googled ‘Post Menopausal Bleeding‘.  It was not a happy tale.  So I dutifully booked in to see my GP.  Thankfully it was a woman this time, not the 12-year-old boy I normally see when my reproductive system deliberately decides to do one because it secretly knows he is on duty and wants me to have to discuss sex, vaginas, bladders and bowels with someone who still has bum fluff on his chin.

After all the usual poking and prodding around, ‘It all seems normal’, she says.  I bite my tongue against the urge to tell her that any bleeding out of your nethers at 53 after 15 months of blissful absence doesn’t feel that normal anymore.  Plus, it is decidedly inconvenient to have your husband dash up the High Street with sanitary towels in the middle of the afternoon because Auntie decides to show up at work.  (Husband points earned).

So everything looks normal, only it isn’t, so I have to go the fast track one-stop gynae clinic at the local hospital.  This is apparently for an abdominal ultrasound.  The appointment people phone within a couple of days and soon I am heading off with my bladder bursting to capacity ready for the sonographer to work magic with her scanning machine.  This was a pretty seamless service I have to say and another reason to be totally thankful that we have a centrally funded NHS in the UK.

Anyway, back to the good part:  I had the abdominal ultrasound, my bladder protesting throughout -‘oh, what a lovely full bladder’! exclaimed the Sonographer.  For her maybe, for me, not so much.  After a quick pee, I thought that was it, all done and over, but no.  Apparently, she also has to look ‘the other way’.  This involved me scooting down the bed with my bum perched on a pillow while she ferreted around with a probe.

Finally, it was all done; next stop the Consultant.  How hard could that be?  A quick chat and I’m off.

Nope.  Wrong.  His turn to have a pit of a ferk involves sitting in a chair which kind of disappeared at the end of my bum.  This was pretty bizarre – having some guy sat there gazing into your holiest of holies whilst making polite conversation is (thankfully) not something you experience every day of the week.  He also took a biopsy of the lining of my womb which was done with a ‘small pipelle’.  ‘That sounds ok’, I thought, and it did literally only take a few seconds.  Sadly those seconds were characterised by contractions which I was told would be similar to period pains but were actually more akin to early labour.

Being an ex-nurse has certain perks; one of these is that as a patient you are almost always guaranteed to be a complete and utter pain in the arse.  On this occasion, having coped marvellously well with it all the time it was actually going on, I decided to start feeling sick and faint as I was getting dressed.  Cue laying down in the only available spot (a couch in the waiting area) and being plied with glasses of water and provided with papier mache sick bowls.   I did my best to both reassure the nursing staff that it was ‘just a bit of a vaso-vagal‘ and also to convince the elderly lady who turned up for her turn that it was ok really and that I was just a wimp.  I got a distinct feeling she was not convinced as she went into the consultation muttering something about general anaesthesia.

Anyway, the upshot of it all was the Consultant was pretty happy that I had just been through all of this because I’d had a light period.  Results of the biopsy will come through ‘eventually’ because apparently you only get bad ones superfast and I should go home and forget all about it.

Well, that was a super fun way to spend a Wednesday.  I went home and slept for 3 hours.

On a serious note:  Yes it was an uncomfortable morning (especially the last bit) but it was so worth it for the reassurance it provided and of course, had it not been normal I could have dealt with any issue earlier rather than later.

If like me you are ‘of an age’ where you haven’t been having your monthly ‘woe’ for over a year (and apparently it is now over 6 months if you are over 50), you should make sure you get it checked.

Hoping this is my ovaries’ finally flurry before they give up the ghost.  Fingers crossed!




Image Credit Dominic Alves 



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