Going for a Mammogram

I am now 42 years old and assuming that I live to the ripe, old age of 84 (it would be good to last that long), I can now consider myself middle-aged. Middle age is the time when your talks with your friends and relatives turn to blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and staying healthy. For women, that means going for all sorts of medical tests on a regular basis, and that includes going for your annual mammogram.

Breast cancer, just like most cancers, is best treated when caught at an early stage. That is why, we women, are often told and reminded to do regular monthly breast self-examinations and to go for annual screening tests like a mammogram or a breast ultrasound.

I used to hear horror stories about how painful a mammogram can be (from relatives, friends, and even from strangers who were waiting for their turn for a mammogram) that I dreaded my very first mammogram at the age of 40. I don't know if my tolerance for pain is quite high (I did deliver my first child via lamaze without any anesthesia) but the first time I went for a mammogram, I was surprised that it did not feel the least bit painful. I have my mammograms done at Cardinal Santos Medical Center at the Women's Center Lab.

As I inquired about scheduling my mammogram for this year (it's on a first come, first-served basis, from 8am to 5pm, Mondays to Saturdays, I think), I was told by the hospital staff that the best time to get a mammogram is about 10 days after your period or thereabouts. I suppose it has something to do with the changes that your breasts undergo all throughout your menstrual cycle. For Breast Self-Examinations, for example, we are instructed to do it from seven to 10 days from the onset of one's period since your breasts would be less tender by then.

The mammogram just takes a few minutes to perform, with digital images taken of both breasts, from the front and from the side. Your breasts will get squished and you may experience some tenderness for a day or so after. But, everything is bearable.

As I was about to take the test, the staff at Cardinal Santos performing the procedure asked if I had put on deodorant. I said yes. She handed me a piece of thick tissue (with alcohol) and asked me to wipe my underarms to remove the deodorant. So when going for a mammogram, even if you think you are doing the hospital staff a favor by ensuring that you smell well and clean, hold the deodorant first. I was told that the machine is quite sensitive that the image/reading can get distorted because of your deodorant smears/application.

My mammogram results are already out and similar to the last time, I'm classified as BI-RADS Category 2, with benign findings. The recommendation is just to do an annual follow-up or screening so I'm happy.

So, if you happen to be female and aged forty and above (men get breast cancer too but I doubt if a lot of men read my blog), do yourself and your loved ones a favor by going for medical screening tests annually. The test may just save your life.

[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, March 29, 2009]


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