The big decisions in life to make are always the hardest. I’ve found anything to do with important health decisions ranks up there. Add nerve racking to the mix, and the odds are you will put it off as long as possible.
Women over 40 need mammograms
In my case, high risk women over 40 really need to get a mammogram. The reality of not having one hit when I finally went back for an annual exam with my OB/GYN. After 5 years.
I’ve noticed a trend with myself and my other close friends over 40. High risk health issues typically bring out two responses:
- Make an appointment and deal with it.
- Come up with a million excuses and put off dealing with it while it creates a nagging stress in your life.
In my case, I chose #2 to deal with my first mammogram.
I had heard all the stories about how uncomfortable they are. How they are borderline painful. Those were my excuses as to why the phone call to make the appointment wasn’t made.
The reality was fear.
I was afraid of the results. High risk means exactly that. My health history, and family history, points to the high potential that at some point prior to my death, I will have to deal with the “C” word.
Cancer of all forms has effected everyone I am close to in my life. It’s something I hold close to my heart as one of my greatest fears. There is no question that I would fight it if it came to that, but the pain and worry I would cause my loved ones would be heartbreaking.
These are the things I woke up to at 3 am for the few weeks I had to wait for my appointment.
I planned on taking time off from work this past holiday season. What better time to take care of this, right? Never mind the fact that I have had a reminder in my phone to make the appointment for almost a year. I just could not bring myself to make the phone call. Plus, wasn’t there paperwork I needed? I had no idea where I might have
hidden filed that.
The excuses added up.
I gave up trying to find the paperwork and just called my doctor, explaining that I thought there was an order for a mammogram in my file, and could they help. Guess what? The mammogram order expires after 6 months.
After several phone calls getting re-approval for the test without having to have another OB/GYN appointment , I called the imaging lab to make the appointment. Little did I know just how convenient it would be. Not only is the test available later in the day, and on Saturdays to accommodate tough schedules, that is the only thing this imaging center does. Mammograms. Day in, day out.
The appointment was set for a few weeks out in the evening after work so there were no more excuses. Unfortunately that didn’t mean the fear magically went away.
I couldn’t sleep the night before, and was supremely nervous heading into the appointment under the giant sign reading “Breast Center”. My tech was super friendly and walked me through everything before we even started. Your first time doing anything is nerve wracking, but the process of finding out weather you are healthy or not adds a new level of stress.
Thank you new technology! My imaging tech explained that the intense eperiences of the past were just that, long gone. New technology offers much better pictures without the squishy pancake experience of being caught in a vice.
Frankly, I’ve had bras that were more painful than getting this mammogram.
That made my experience nothing like I was expecting. At no time was I uncomfortable, and miles away from pain. There were a few additional angles taken, due to family history and as it was my first time in.
All in all my shaking stopped as soon as I got to review the images right there with the tech. Granted I had no idea what to look for, and she wasn’t saying anything was good or bad health wise, but seeing the digital images were exactly what the needed before I left the office was great.
Ready for your first mammogram? Here’s what to expect:
1. Mammograms save lives
Please don’t put it off. At 43 I’ve missed 3 years of potentially life saving health results. For most of us, getting an annual mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer early.
2. Time your appointment
If are still having your period (a.k.a. not lucky enough to have started menopause… more on that in a future post) plan on scheduling your appointment the week after your period. Less tender breast make the experience even smoother.
3. No deodorant, lotion, or powders
The day of your appointment, don’t apply any of your regular smell-and-look-pretty routine. Applying those may show up as a false problem on the x-ray image.
4. Wear something 2-piece
Only your top needs to come off for the mammogram so wear something comfy you can whip off. You’ll have a gown to keep you comfy.
5. Paperwork. Boring but necessary.
Bring your insurance card, plus the name and address of your doctor who ordered the report, just in case they don’t already have it. Copies of the results will be sent to your doctor too.
6. Quick and easy
The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes. From the time I walked into the building and left, mine was a quick and simmple 35 minutes. That includes check in and waiting. Allow yourself time so you aren’t rushed.
7. Unusual results aren’t always cancer
I am familiar with the results from my health test being “inconclusive” and having to be retested. Mammograms are not any different, and most unusual findings may be results from dense breast tissue or images that aren’t perfectly clear. Get tested again in whatever form your doctor recommends.
Just do it to stay healthy
Health issues, health care, and the way we have the opportunity to take advantage of it in the US today are huge hot topics. I am extremely lucky to have access to great health coverage, but if you are not, please take the opportunity to find resources in your community to stay healthy.
For more information on low cost of free mammograms, there are resources on the Susan G. Komen website.
Take care of yourself for the long haul.
I survived the few days it took for my “normal” mammogram test results to arrive. But without making the appointment, my health questions would still be haunting me.
What have you been putting off in your own journey toward healthy living? Share in the comments and be brave. We are all here to offer support!
Go get your fit on – Heather
Heather Montgomery is a fitness writer, triathlete, and serial entrepreneur who is devoted to sharing what she has learned about becoming a triathlete after age 40. She uses her Metabolic Training Certification to help other women struggling to get fit in mid-life. She lives and trains in Santa Rosa, California, the new home of the Ironman triathlon. You can find her biking the Sonoma County wine trails.
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