“Welcome to the 40 and up club!” said the chipper nurse who walked me down the corridor to the examination room. “You’re a part of my tribe since you have to start getting mammograms, ” she remarked with a huge smile on her face. I returned the gesture with a half-smile, partly because I’m not one to involuntarily join clubs and because I had no idea what was about to happen to my breasts.
The Mammogram Myth
There are a lot of women in my family, so I’ve heard my share of mammogram horror stories. I cringed at the thought of my supple breast being smashed to resemble a pancake. The idea alone made me want to scurry to the nearest exit, but I didn’t. Because I was already closed off in a small room, removing my t-shirt and bra as instructed by nurse chipper.
After placing the hospital robe on, I took a quick mirror selfie to commemorate my “40 and up club” woman initiation day. Nurse chipper knocked on the door in the middle of my selfie session and said, “it’s time!” I placed my cell phone in my purse and proceeded to walk out to the unknown. As I entered the examination room, my mind began to drift. “What if they find something?” “What would I do?” I was in a mental frenzy but quickly snapped out of it when I was confronted with the gigantic mammography (breast-smashing) machine. It was time for the mammogram induction ceremony.
Nurse chipper asked me questions about my family’s health history, and then instructed me to throw out every excruciating thought about the procedure, because those thoughts mostly come from women who are used to the old machines. She also said that the examination might be uncomfortable, but it’s tolerable.
Research shows that Black women often get obscured test results due to having dense breasts. However, 3D machines can capture dense breasts more clearly. Therefore, I was relieved to see the 3D machine in the examination room. I was instructed to disrobe and stand as close as possible to the machine. Nurse chipper then took my right breast and placed it on the base of the machine. She told me to move closer to the machine, inhale, relax, and don’t move. I did as I was told, and as the top of the machine slowly went down on my breast, I froze in anticipation of discomfort. But it didn’t hurt at all. She snapped the images she needed, which only took a few seconds, and then I was able to move. This was done for the front and sides of both of my breasts.
The entire procedure took about 15 minutes or less. I also got my results back that same day which were favorable, thank God! Although I was nervous about my first mammogram, I’m glad I did it. According to www.bcpp.org, breast cancer diagnoses are higher for Black women under the age of 45 than White women. This statistic alone makes me want to continue to advocate for my health and keep up with my yearly mammograms.
So, for the ladies who have reached the 40-year-old mark, do yourself a huge favor and make that mammogram appointment. Although smashed breasts are not appealing, the peace of mind you get from keeping up with your health as a Black woman definitely is.
Here’s to annual pancake breasts!
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