**This posting is mostly geared towards people with breasts (i.e. women) who have never had a mammogram. However, it is great information for anyone who loves someone with breasts**
Being that I turned 40 this year, my doctor suggested I get my first mammogram. First things first, I don't have a family history of breast cancer. In fact, all of my immediate family members have been luckily cancer free. Practically all my doctors have warned me that picking up on breast cancer on me would be a challenge due to their size and density. Seriously almost all my doctors have told me this. I never really know how to respond to this. Kind of like I never know how to respond to people who tell me I look much better in person than in photos--but that's a whole other story.
My breasts are full. My bra size is a g cup (if you aren't familiar with breast cup size it kind of goes like this--AA, A, B, C, D, DD (E), DDD(F), DDDD(G), etc.), and the only bra that really works for me is a minimizer that costs $75.00. You see, when you have larger breasts, the variety of pretty, sexy, and functional bras greatly diminishes. I'm not really complaining about it, it's just the way it is.
My personal theory on breast cancer survivors is totally not scientific. But, my belief is that people with smaller breasts catch and treat breast cancer much more successfully than women with an ample bust. Celebrities like Sheryl Crow, Guillianna Ranic, Cynthia Nixon, Kylie Minogue, and Melissa Etheridge all had smaller breasts. My concern is that I don't remember ever being able to point to any celebrities who are bigger breasted and say "wow, they beat breast cancer!" Come to think about it, I can't really name a celebrity (and you know I love my gossip rags) who is a large busted breast cancer survivor. Like I said, it's definitely not scientific--it's just my gut feeling.
For those of you who have never had a mammogram, this is basically what happens.
They tell you not to wear any kind of deodorants, antiperspirants, or power. When you arrive they take you into a changing room where you are told to take off anything above the waist. Don't worry, your not sitting around with your boobs out, because they give you a robe. They might as well have given me nothing to wear because this robe was way small. One thing most people don't realize about me is that I am actually a lot larger than I appear. When it comes to robes, one size does not fit all. Not even close.
Once you are brought into the mammogram room you take off your robe and the technician places (and I had no idea or warning about this) stickers on your areolas. Ummm..really? A heads up would have been nice. Then you are manipulated into an uncomfortable position while the tech man-handles (with both their hands) your breasts to get them on the glass plate. The plate pushes down (basically trying to flatten out your breast) causing a lot of pressure, you are told to reach your arm across the machine, but, at the same time, relax your shoulder. The plate gets pushed down again causing even more pressure.
I didn't care for my tech at all. Besides man-handling me, she kept shouting out directives like "square your hips", "no, you have to reach around and grab that bar", "relax your shoulder...it won't work unless you relax it", and "hold your breath". This process is completed a total of 4 times (also something I didn't know).
They don't show you the films, even though the image comes up on their screen. You are sent away to re-dress and go about your day. Your primary care doctor contacts you in the event something shows up.
The process wasn't as traumatic or painful as I had expected, but the tech was aware it was my first mammogram so she could have been nicer and less rough. I can't decide if this tech was just a bitch, was sick of her job, or was used to dealing with people more experienced in the world of mammography.
In short, the mammogram didn't hurt as much as I anticipated. It was super uncomfortable because of the amount of pressure being placed on your breasts. The closest thing I can think of is those head flattening torture devices they used to use hundreds of years ago.
Also, for those of you who are big breasted like me, you can also specifically ask for an MRI of both breasts. Because of my insurance I had to get my mammogram first before they could submit my doctor's request for additional testing. My doctor basically said that 1/3 of breast cancer is detected by the person, 1/3 by mammography, and 1/3 by MRI scans. It's nice to know that option is out there.