by Amanda McNally
You want to put my boob in a vice? Ok!
EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES. You hear it all the time and its true. We know that earlier detection helps to find smaller breast cancers before they spread to other parts of the body. When breast cancer is detected at an earlier stage, most patients have more treatment options, less invasive forms of treatment and a better chance of surviving the disease. Mammography is the best tool we have for catching cancers early. On average a mammogram detects a cancer 1.7 years before its palpable.
I began being screened for breast cancer at 28 years old, ten years to the age my mother was when she was diagnosed. For me, regular screening means that if I am faced with a breast cancer diagnosis I know that I have been doing everything I can to make sure that I detect it early.
My first mammogram was nerve racking to say the least. The worry of what they might find terrified me. To handle how nervous I was I did what I always do – I resorted to humor. When the technician asked me to drop my robe and came up from behind me to lift my breast into the mammography machine I looked her straight in the eye and let her know that usually people had to take me to an expensive dinner with a nice bottle of wine before we became so acquainted. She politely smiled and began to tighten the machine on my breast. Once I was “securely fastened” she told me not to breathe – trust me I hadn’t since I walked in – and then she told me not to move. She had my boob in a vice, where did she think I was going to go? Is this the point in the procedure when people tend to run out and leave their breasts behind? After the mammogram I was told there was no evidence of breast cancer and I have never felt so relieved in all my life. As much anxiety as I sometimes have before a mammogram I will always take that over the “not knowing” any day.
A lot of women I speak to say they are delaying their mammogram out of fear. Early detection is so important, please do not delay. Here are a few tips:
- If you are concerned about discomfort take a ibuprofen a few hours before, limit caffeine intake a week prior and ensure you go between menstrual cycles.
- Do not wear creams or deodorants to your appointment, they can interfere with the films.
- At a screening appointment they take two images on each side. The appointment should only take about 10 mins.
- If the technician asks to you wait while they “check the films” DO NOT PANIC. They are simply looking to make sure they got a clear image and the entire area they were supposed to. They are not checking for abnormalities.If they call you back in, they need to get a better picture to ensure you are positioned properly.
- Compression is involved. It is quick. Compression is important to ensure they get the best picture possible while using the least amount of radiation.
The age you are eligible for screening mammography is different from province to province. Please click here to find out the eligibility requirements from province to province.
Amanda is the Community Relations Coordinator at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation BC/Yukon Region. She lives in White Rock, BC with her husband Chris and two children Jacob (5) and Penny (3). Amanda’s passion for the cause comes from her desire to create a future without breast cancer so her children never know what it like to lose their mother to breast cancer. Follow her @mrsmandymac.