Having my first mammogram is something that I have been putting off for a while even though I know how important it is. Three of my aunts (two biological and one by marriage) have had breast cancer and successfully beaten it. The last case of breast cancer was the aunt closest in age to me, she is only ten years older, reminding me that it really is time that I get myself screened.
Two weeks ago I emailed SCP Radiology and they told me it was R1516.47 for a mammogram. I then called Discovery to find out what was covered since my medical savings for this year has long since been used up getting the Mirena put in. I was very pleased to find out that Discovery covers the cost of a mammogram every two years out of my screening benefits so I did not have to pay anything out of pocket.
My Resistance To Getting A Mammogram
Going for a mammogram is scary. I’m just going to put that out there. Breast cancer is scary and I don’t want to get breast cancer and avoiding a mammogram is not going to prevent breast cancer but it can help me live in denial a bit longer.
The other thing is that I had heard that having a mammogram is really unpleasant. I had heard that it hurts when your boobs get squashed in the machine.
My First Mammogram
When I got to SCP Radiology in Vredenburg Quinita was the technician that took me through the process from beginning to end. She was so friendly and helpful which made everything so much easier. She answered all my questions and made me feel so much better about the process.
The first thing that happened was I had to remove all my clothing from the waist up and then I got a gown to wear with the opening in the front. I highly recommend wearing pants for this, otherwise you will be more exposed than necessary.
Then Quinita asked me some questions, such as:
- How many children I have
- How many pregnancies I have had
- Did I breastfeed?
- Is there a history of breast cancer in my family?
After that she positioned me at the machine (pictured above) with one breast in between the black plate and the clear plate. She then brought the clear plate down and yes it did squish my boob a bit but it was not painful. She took a scan with the machine. This was repeated with the other breast and then she turned the machine to take scans from the side with each breast.
It was not painful at all, but it was a little bit uncomfortable and of course it is not the best feeling having my breasts touched and being exposed.
For most woman this is the end of it but for me there was more to come. Quinita said due to my breast tissue being dense she needed to do an ultrasound scan too.
Breast Ultrasound Scan
This involved being moved to another room which landed up being the same room I was taken to when I was having a miscarriage in 2018. It took me by surprise and brought up very unpleasant memories for me.
My breasts got covered in lube, the same that they use for putting on your stomach when doing an ultrasound for your baby when pregnant. Then she scanned each breast. It took quite a while and it felt weird, especially when wiping off all that lube, like I was in some weird porn show.
The radiologist checked my scans and told me that everything looked fine and I’m good to go.
For anyone nervous about going for a mammogram it really was not as bad as the things that I have heard. For sure it is not what I would call a fun morning out, but it is certainly not as bad as a pap smear or going to the dentist.
What To Know Before Having Your Mammogram
- You may need a referral letter from your doctor to make your first appointment (I got one from my gynaecologist)
- Make sure to wear pants or a skirt rather than a dress as you will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up.
- Avoid drinking coffee, tea of caffeinated drinks before your mammogram as this can lead to breast tenderness (I ignored this and had my morning coffee)
- Avoid putting any lotions, talcum powder, perfumes or deodorants on your skin before the mammogram as these can interfere with the results
- Try and schedule your mammogram for the week after your period – your breasts should be less tender at this time
- Keeping your body relaxed will help to keep the process pain free and quick
When Should You Have Your First Mammogram
As a general rule it is a good idea to get your first mammogram by the age of 40 and to have them every one to two years. If you are at a higher risk of breast cancer, for example if your mother had breast cancer, then chat to your doctor and start having your mammograms earlier.
It is also important to have a mammogram if you find a lump in your breasts or if there is any change to your breasts no matter what your age, even if you have recently had a mammogram.