My First Mammogram

Mammogram machine
Image by Elías Alarcón from Pixabay

Soooo…I’m 40 now. And for my birthday, my gyno had me run to get a mammogram. My baseline mammo. My first. Ever. I’ve had an aunty diagnosed with boob cancer, so I take my boob-health very seriously.

All I’ve ever heard were horror stories of pain and discomfort and smashed-thin tatas. “Take an Ibuprofen about an hour before the appointment,” I’d heard from various well-experienced womenfolk of mine.

Did I? No. I completely forgot…Crap.

So how was it?!?

I checked in about 20 minutes early and was given a wrist band with my identifying info (which I forgot I was wearing ’til 9:00 that night). I was then escorted to a room with a wall of lockers and an opposite wall of dressing rooms, asked to disrobe from the waist up, and to put on a thin (yet comfy) bathrobe. My sweater and bra were locked safely away in a locker (the key was secured to a bracelet around my other wrist) and I was asked to wait in a lobby nearby. There I sat for another 30 minutes with various gals of various ages, all of us wearing bathrobes, and either reading magazines or perusing smartphones. “For the comfort of our patients, no gentleman allowed” read a nearby sign. It made me smile.

“Lisa?” My name was called by a short, portly woman and she explained she was my mammogram technician and walked me to another room…where I saw a machine similar to the one pictured above. Okay…I don’t know what I expected, but not that. While she explained the procedure, and calmed my fears of “is it going to hurt much?” I tuned out and just wondered where my boobs went on the machine: On the black surface? In the little plastic basket? WHERE? What’s the clear window for? Well…I learned quite quickly:

If you’ve never had one before, here’s what to expect (at least what my experience was):

  1. Pop your right arm out of the bathrobe, so that the right half of your torso is exposed;
  2. Stand facing the machine.
  3. The technician will adjust the machine to place the black tray at your under-boob height.
  4. Here’s where it got fun. The technician moves your body around a bit so you’re positioned on the black tray with the right boob. The clear shield? “Turn your face toward me and push your face up against the shield.” The right side of my face smashed flat against the plexiglass window and she fondled my boob into place. If you’ve ever photocopied your face before…you know the feeling (well, maybe not of the technician placing your boob at the correct angle)…My first thought? “Oh, her hands are WARM!” The next thought? The black surface of the machine was ALSO warm. Perfect.
  5. “Don’t move.” The technician left me there, in an awkward pose, as she stepped behind their protective computer wall thingy. “Breathe like normal,” she called, while the machine made a few noises, gently smooshed my boob, and it snapped a few images. “Take a deep breath and hold it,” she called out as the machine snapped a few more images. “Aaaand…breathe.” All the while, a fancy-schmancy portion of the machine spun above my stationary boob and took the images. Was kind of soothing to watch as I waited for the tech to finish.
  6. (IT DIDN’T HURT AT ALL)…
  7. I repeat, IT DIDN’T HURT AT ALL! “Um, was that it?” I asked. “Wearing my bra is more uncomfortable than that…” The only discomfort I had from the machine was where my ribcage met the black surface- an unfamiliar pressure as I leaned up against the edge of the boobsmoosher machine.
  8. Wash, rinse, and repeat for the left boob. Again, no pain.
  9. The actual mammogram portion took less than 10 minutes…maybe even closer to 5 minutes.

And that’s it! She advised me that the radiologist would look at the images that afternoon and I would be receiving a letter in the mail in 7-10 business days.

I nearly shouted in excitement how it didn’t hurt one bit and there was so much hype that I was ready for catastrophic pain. She shrugged, smiled, and said “It’s never hurt me either.”

My theory? I either got a REALLY gentle machine that cared about the well-being of my boobs, or a technician who placed them super-carefully, or my boobs are less sensitive than other women, or small tatas hurt far less than big boobs on the smoosh-machine.

My mum had me look into the mammograms they do these days where you don’t have to get smooshed. I called around; my insurance only covers the smashable boob machines. A few non-smashable mammograms are available in San Diego, but only for women who have been diagnosed with aggressive boob cancer and need extra special eyes and images.

The tech advised me that mammograms are a yearly occurrence. Do I look forward to doing it again in a year? Sure, why not? I get to wear a comfy robe, stare at my phone for a while, and have warm hands on my tits. Going to the pap smear is far more uncomfortable for me than a mammo. And the hour-long wait in traffic to get home was even more painful.

Oh…and a word of advice: if you do schedule your mammogram set it for the warmer months! She said in the winter the machine surface doesn’t retain heat and it’s REALLY COLD. So, I’ll be doing mine in the spring/summer months in the future!

And next year? Next year I get to have my first colonoscopy…stay tuned!!!

I hope you’ve having a GREAT day! If you’ve had a mammogram, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts! What made it particularly awful or great? Drop me a comment below or shoot me a note. And here’s to hoping my experience dulls some fears if you’ve got an upcoming first boob-smoosh appointment.