Thinking back to January 2020 – I was really fired up about the year ahead. I was turning 40 and I had plenty of exciting things planned to celebrate.
Hmpf. I simply decided to stay 39 for another year, but there was one plan I did need to follow through on – my first mammogram.
What is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is an X-ray image of your breasts used to screen for breast cancer. The goal is to detect cancer before clinical signs are noticeable and early detection is key in cancer survival. Many doctors recommend women with an average risk of breast cancer start regular mammogram screenings at 40 in addition to their monthly breast self-exams.
I am both fortunate and thankful to have no family history of breast cancer, but having become a lot more aware of the importance of my own health and well-being over the last few years, and having two children, I definitely felt that I wanted to take charge of my own health and that this was important.
FIRST THING’S FIRST – GET A REFERRAL
I visited my regular doctor to get my referral and told her that I wanted to go to OceanMed. I had heard great things about the wonderful women’s-only health facility in George Town and read about their fantastic new state-of-the-art mammography machine which claimed to be more spacious, comfortable, and importantly, more accurate than other machines on island.
Referral in hand, I called OceanMed and spoke to the Radiographer, Margaret. She confirmed that I had some allowance on my insurance for a mammogram and that the insurance would cover 80% of the cost (which would be a big help!).
HOW SHOULD I PREPARE FOR MY MAMMOGRAM?
She pointed out that I would just need 30 minutes for the mammogram so I booked a lunchtime slot to suit my schedule. I was feeling pretty pleased that I could have the screening during my lunch hour and they would send the images to my doctor that same day.
She advised me not to wear deodorant or lotion under my arms on the day of my appointment (as the metallic particles in them can sometimes show up on the mammogram and cause confusion) and to wear a two-piece outfit so that I could remove my top easily.
I just had one more question for Margaret… would it hurt? She reassured me that gentle pressure would be applied but it would not be painful. She suggested that if I had particularly tender breasts then I could take some ibuprofen an hour or so beforehand. She also recommended that for those women who do suffer from tender breasts and haven’t gone through menopause, the week after your period would be the best time to schedule as they are likely to be the least tender then.
READY FOR M-DAY
Life is pretty busy with two kids and the appointment day rolled around pretty quickly. I had remembered to wear separates and block out my diary for lunch. I parked up at Bayshore Mall and walked around to the front of the building. I was welcomed by Tishunda, the Front Desk Administrator with a big smile. I was really impressed with the gorgeous waiting room; it was certainly a step up from other doctor’s office waiting rooms that I have been in, an elegant chandelier adorned the ceiling, stylish furniture and not a plastic chair in sight! I would have been pretty happy to hang out and watch TV there for a while, but I only had to wait a matter of seconds before Margaret came to collect me.
Margaret guided me past some stunning art and through to the mammography room which was designed as a sensory suite. The delicious smell coming from the diffuser and soft green lighting was so calming. She offered me a choice of beautiful scenes to look at through the “windows” of the suite. I opted for a gentle woodland scene with a trickling stream and noises of the birds singing their happy songs. It was so calming.
Margaret gave me a comfy cotton pink robe to put on and showed me the Senographe Pristina Mammography machine. She explained how she was going to position my breasts, one at a time, and take two scans of each breast and that each one would take just seconds!
It sounded so simple and it really was.
Margaret is an experienced radiographer and it showed. She really put me at ease during my appointment. Next she set the machine in the right place for my height and frame and guided my body into the right place. She helped position my breast against the plate and then added the compression. I focused on my breathing and tried not to tense up as I waited for the squeeze….
And then it was done.
Was that it? I had hardly noticed a thing.
I was very pleasantly surprised.
Margaret then proceeded to take the remaining images needed and we were done within minutes. I didn’t realize how nervous I had been until it was all over. I was so relieved and very pleased that it hadn’t hurt at all.
Getting the results
OceanMed’s in-house Radiographer, Dr. Sana, would record my result and send it on to my doctor ASAP. Then my doctor would call me and let me know the results.
She said that if Dr Sana, or my doctor, saw anything they were concerned about, or wanted me to have a follow up breast ultrasound (which is sometimes recommended for women with very dense breasts) then they would call me straight away to let me know.
The next morning, they called me to say that everything on my mammogram was fine and there was no need for any follow up.
I felt pretty pleased with myself for crossing that task off my list for this year and my advice to any women who are putting it off due to whatever reason or excuse is to give OceanMed a call.