I had a mammogram once, I’ll never have another one though…because that one mammogram discovered cancer which resulted in surgeons taking my breasts. That one mammogram saved my life. I was 41. Have you ever had a mammogram? Maybe you wonder what’s involved in a mammogram? For goodness sake read on because this is one screening you don’t want to put off.
One in eight Aussie women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis by the age of eighty five.
Breast cancer is one cancer that we can actually screen for, which is awesome because not all breast cancers present with a lump. In fact mine wasn’t palpable and the doctors told me it would have got me before the lump was able to be felt. Scary shit right?
Breast cancer kills, BUT, early detection saves lives. Early detection is vital.
So who can have a mammogram? Any woman with breast tissue. You can still have them if you have implants, are older, have a pace maker or are taking HRT. My implants are because of reconstruction and I don’t have breast tissue so I can’t have a mammogram now, instead I have a physical examination and cross my fingers.
Breast screen Australia offer free mammograms in all States of the country for women aged 40-74 but will only invite you via letter every two years from the age of 50. That’s most likely because around 75% off breast cancers are diagnosed in women over 50. Of course you can still get a referral for a mammogram ‘before’ the age of 40 but you won’t be accessing the free breast screen service.
You also can’t access the free breastscreen service once you’ve had breast cancer, instead you’ll be in the care of a specialist who will guide you to the screening that’s best for you.
The cost of a mammogram through private screening varies, some private health insurance will cover all costs, check your policy. I didn’t have private health insurance and from memory Medicare covered most of the cost, I think I had a gap of around $100.
Mammograms might seem daunting, you know, flipping your boobs out for strangers and all. Let me tell you, walking around bald and boobless is much more daunting. So let’s dispel some myths about a mammogram, what really happens and all.
Once you’ve booked your appointment you actually rock up. Yep, you need to attend. Don’t be scared, the radiographers are lovely and will talk you through the testing every step of the way.
My tip is wear pants or a skirt with a top because then you aren’t getting full nude. Once you’ve changed into a gown (you get to keep your bottoms on) the nurse will take you into a room ready for screening.
This part only takes a few minutes. You place your breast on plate, not a dinner plate, more like a little Perspex shelf. Then it’s compressed (I didn’t find this painful), feels a little weird and maybe a little uncomfortable but once the radiographer takes a few snaps and the other breast is done it’s all over. If you feel real pain, speak up and let the nurse know. Afterwards you’ll be asked to sit for a few minutes while your tests are reviewed.
Your X-rays are reviewed by two radiographers and if you’ve ever had a previous X-ray they are then compared to your new snaps. Sometimes you might be asked for another screenshot, perhaps from a different angle. If something suspicious is found the radiographers consult with your GP and will most likely do an ultrasound and sometimes a few fine needle aspirations too.
This is what happened to me. You can read about it here.
Younger women have denser breasts so an ultrasound may be needed but it isn’t always call for alarm, it just gives a clearer image. In fact, even as I lay on the table with the radiographer clicking away while deep in my guts I
suspected knew that something was really wrong I wasn’t alarmed. I just needed to let the doctors and radiographers do their thing.
If nothing super suspicious is found you head home and go about daily life, you’ll receive a letter in the mail confirming nothing was found and reminding you to book another appointment. If further testing is required you’ll receive a call from your GP, I received mine at work on a Saturday morning, pretty safe bet an early minute was called for.
Mammograms save lives, pretty simple. Please, book your appointment, rock up and get your boobs screened. In between screening be ‘breast aware’, get to know your breasts and take note of change. More on what to look for in the next post.
Have you put off a mammogram? What’s your tips for having a mammogram?