When November rolls around, I know it’s time to make my eye appointment and my mammogram appointment. (May? Gynocologist! January/June? Dentist/Dentist!)
Last week I called Metro Imaging and set myself up for the mammogram. (Confession: I used to think that Metro Imaging was a Glamour Shots sort of place where you go for image enhancement and photographs taken with fancy pants filters. (Have I ever told you about the time when I worked at a photography studio and I helped the photographer build up his book by posing in a fur coat? What in the hell was going on back in 1992?!) Anyway, Metro Imaging has nothing to do with lipstick and attitude! (At least that’s not their main selling point.) It’s all about radioactivity and wellness!)
Some of you have been down the mammogram road. Some of you haven’t. Some of you probably NEED to, but are a little nervous about making the call. If that’s your case, then know that I am talking to you and you alone right now. Everyone else has left the room, and I’m sitting on your couch getting ready to clear my throat and have a heart to heart with you. Are you ready? (I’m wearing a cardigan.)
I absolutely despise the fact that television tells us that it’s funny to hate our in-laws and that mammograms are super painful. Neither of those things are true! First of all, hate is ugly and gives you premature lines around your eyes. Secondly, mammograms are weird, but in my experience, they aren’t painful. (Full disclosure: I’ve had three of them. I was all nervous and annoying during the first one, but the next two were breezy.)
When you show up for the mammogram appointment, you have to fill out a form that asks if you have implants, have ever felt a lump, have been experiencing a discharge, etc. In my mind, these forms are not used only to provide important information, they’re also used to break down your wall of nerves. Look at you. You are sitting on a couch and filling out a sheet that has cartoon boobs drawn on it, and that’s weird and not something you do every day, right? Take a deep breath.
When the paperwork is done, you’ll be led to a little room where you will remove everything that covers your chest. (Keep your pants on. IMPORTANT: Do not wear a jumpsuit to your mammogram. I’m about to tell you why.) After you’ve taken off your shirt and bra, you’ll put on this weird poncho thing. It has snaps, and I have no idea if they go in the front or the back. Similarly, every time I’ve put the poncho on, I do a punching action with my arms to try to find the sleeves. There are no sleeves. It’s just a big circle of fabric with a hole cut for your head (thank God, because otherwise you would look like a porno ghost), and when you put it on, it hits you right at the waistline. (This is why a jumpsuit would be a bad idea. Of course, modesty can be overrated, I suppose. Wear nice underpants. Just in case.)
The technician will come and get you, and if you’re lucky, he or she (usually she) will be really nice and aware of how vulnerable you might be feeling in that little poncho. (My poncho had flower pots on it, which is definitely not my style. Then again, as you know, I don’t really know my style right now. But wait. I do know that this is my style, but is sadly not in my budget right now. Owls on a skirt!)
Me: I never remember how to put this thing on.
Technician: That’s okay. We’re going to be lifting it up and moving it around, so just do whatever’s comfortable.
Let’s stop right here for a second. (This is where I tell you things that make me squirmy, but I feel like I should put everything out there because Mammograms Are So Important.) My chest isn’t the biggest chest. With that said, it’s also not the smallest chest. The last time I was measured for a bra, I came in at a 32D. In other words, I’ve got some stuff to smoosh. And we’re about to smoosh it.
Loosen up, because the technician is about to treat you like a mannequin. You will step forward, she will take your right (or left) breast and place it against a piece of thick glass. She’ll then press the button that will make another piece of thick glass come down and hold your breast in place. This can be a tight squeeze, and it can feel a little awkward and uncomfortable. BUT, I promise you: It lasts for only ten to fifteen seconds. In fact, there are only four “poses” she has to get before you’re all done. Here. I’ll show them to you. (I’m taking off my cardigan right now.)
This is pose one and two. Pretend my hands are the glass sheets. Your stuff is going to be smooshed from top to bottom for ten to fifteen seconds, and I suppose I should have done this topless with cookie sheets, but Fluid Pudding is not like that. (At least right now it isn’t.)
Here is pose three and four. For me, this is the more awkward position, because I had to stick my arms up in the air (like I just didn’t care) so everything sat the right way between the glass sheets. (Fun Fact: I smiled for every shot. I know that’s ridiculous, but it’s also the closest thing I’ll ever get to posing topless, so I took advantage of the situation. Also, I was wearing sparkling lip gloss.)
If you go to Metro Imaging, a radiologist will read the images right away. After my fourth radiograph was taken, I was led back to my changing room and asked to wait there (in the poncho) until my images were studied. Less than five minutes later, I was handed a certificate that said, “Negative Exam.” I celebrated those two words with a chai latte and a promise to be better about the self-exam thing. (I’m *terrible* about the self-exam thing.)
Do you see how easy it is? No one judges. The pressure of the machinery lasts for less than a minute total. If your results are negative? Huge relief and you’re done for twelve months (or more, if you’re young!). If your results AREN’T negative, well, thank God you know so you can figure out the next step!
Go get a mammogram. For me. (Not really for me. More for YOU. And for me. Because I like you.)
37 thoughts on “Everyone can handle four smooshes.”
Whilst I’m not sure how breast exams work for those of the male persuasion, I’d like to point out that breast cancer can and does occur in men. My uncle died from breast cancer. Please, men who read this blog, ask your doctor about it. Please, women who read this blog, get your men to ask the doctor about it.
You are awesome – thanks for sharing. I had my first mammogram last year and it was soooooo easy and did not hurt. Slight weirdness, but the whole thing was over in 2 or 3 minutes. AND I got out of work early – so it was a great day.
I absentmindedly wore a dress to my last mammogram. They were nice enough to give me a pair of scrub pants to wear with my top.
And FYI, the imaging center at Mercy Hospital in STL makes you feel like you’re in a spa. Plush robes, fountains, soothing lighting…
And as always, if the technician somehow gets your collarbone caught in between the squishy things (yeah, I don’t understand how that happened either), be sure to point that out immediately.
Boob smooshing good. Also? You could TOTALLY make that skirt. Goodwill knit skit + fabric scraps + quasi-embroidery = $5 skirt. Fo sho.
Thanks for sharing! I will call and schedule mine tomorrow.
You are the most awesome person on the planet. I wonder if they’ll let me wear my own poncho when it’s my mammogram time. I’m thinking of making my own now that you described them. Maybe something festive, like a Christmas tree skirt.
here via @chookooloonks to add my voice to the “it really does not hurt” crowd. i’m 40 and have had three pain free mammograms. granted i am sure to schedule them when i am not premenstrual (wind can hurt my poor boobs when i am!), but otherwise no pain at all. and i didn’t feel awkward since it was medical and it was explained how i was to stand and what was about to happen. great techs are worth their weight in gold!
makes me kind of mad that women are made to fear mammograms. why all the painful talk; why the scare talk?
it should be noted that i have PLENTY to smoosh. maybe larger breasted women have it easier since there is plenty to easily get between the glass plates?
regardless, thank you for sharing this information. i’ll have to send a few women here to read your point of view.
all the best,
A good reminder to set up my next appt. I think I will totally have to go with the sparkling lipgloss, I can see how that would brighten up the experience. And a celebratory hot drink will not run amiss either.
My 2 other mammograms have been weird but easy peasy, and I have very little to smoosh, so even for us less endowed ladies it really is a rather quick and completely painless experience.
Thanks FP. I am enjoying NaMaFoPowhateveryoucallit. In Australia you don’t get a plastic poncho…but can’t say I mind. They sound a bit precious, no? You do get a towel to hold on your front in my experience (makes the chatting with the operator part a bit less weird). Also no instant results here…you have to get those from your doctor at a later appointment.You’re right a mammogram is not that bad and certainly less ouchy in my case than a pap smear. I like to wear fancy socks to those now.
I’ve only had a couple so far, but I would go as far to say that I’d rather have a mammogram than go to the dentist!
Standing at the back of the crowd and shyly raising my hand half-way to say that they DO hurt for me, but that’s because I have fibrocystic breasts. So I take a couple of Advil an hour before my appointment. It helps. You know what REALLY hurts, I’ll bet? Recovering from a mastectomy. I’ll take the mammogram (I’ve had bunches of them) any day.
I love that owl skirt! I’m going to make myself one. Yes, I’m handy like that. How about you knit me something pretty and I’ll make you a cute owl skirt? And I’ll make one for myself! We’ll be Internet twins! (I’m actually serious, you know.)
I also recommend the Breast Center at Mercy for their kind staff, efficiency and comfort level.
Of course Angela is right; mammograms don’t hurt and everyone should have them regularly. But women should be warned about what happened to me during my first (what they call “baseline”) mammogram. It’s common for women to have lumpy tissue deep inside their breasts that is normal and benign. Because such a mass was present in my breast, I had to go through an ultrasound and a painful biopsy. I was told after the ultrasound that I most likely had cancer and I was terrified. Once you’ve completed your baseline mammogram, the facility has a frame of reference for what your breasts look like inside. So don’t let anything that anyone says scare you until you have a biopsy that comes back positive for cancer. If I would have known that before, my loved ones and I would have been saved a ton of worry.
I could hug you for posting this. We just finished a solid month of pink EVERYTHING around here (Tulsa) for cancer awareness, and none of what I saw was 1/8th as useful as this. Thank you!
I had mine! It’s briefly uncomfortable.
You could totally make that skirt!
I love you. That is all. ps. my grandmother died from breast cancer, it is very important that you get checked every year!
I’m with Judi. Love, love LOVE you. You are such a wonderful human being.
And….I dig the skirt.
Having lost one of my bestest friends to breast cancer last year, thanks for being brave and helping people to understand how it really is and not how they think it is. Even though Ang’s wasn’t caught early enough part of that was because she was only 30 when she was diagnosed and that makes her an unusual case. Ladies do your self breast exams too!
Great-grandmother, grandmother, aunt and mother all had breast cancer. All but my mom died from it. I had to beg for years to get a mammogram so I would have a baseline, but was told I was too young to bother. Finally found a doctor who would do it. I recently had to get an unscheduled mammogram because of breast-feeding and yeast infections and mastitis and unexplained breast pain. So this last one was painful – but you are right, they usually aren’t uncomfortable. I did feel a little uncomfortable seeing the pictures of you squeezing your breasts, but all in the name of promoting good breast health, right? Right!
Also, as the mom of a kid who had testicular cancer at 19, please teach your sons to check regularly for lumps there, just the way we teach our daughters to do monthly self-exams. And if anyone happens to have a kid, male or female, away at college who finds a lump and the campus medical facility tells them “you’re too young”, “it’s probably just an infection” or “give it a while to see if it resolves on its own”, drag that kid home ASAP for a serious second opinion!! Cancer hits at every age, and early-detection is key.
Kudos to you, Angie, for making your voice such an effective addition to the whole “Cancer Awareness” crusade!
You were talking to ME. I’ve never had a mammogram… ever. Yeah, I’m confessing right now. I will make an appointment and do this by the end of November. I promise. Thank you.
I have many reasons, all of which are ridiculous. I’m ashamed. I’m a radiology person too. I also know every one of the mammography technologists and that is part of my problem. No, our insurance will not cover mammograms anywhere else. Bummer for me, but stupid reason not to get one.
Thanks for the kick in the pants.
Hey there, just had to add my 2-cents’ worth… my first mammogram did hurt, a bit. Not because I have any condition but because it was the day before my period. I know, what sort of idiot schedules her mammogram for then, right? Ladies, try and avoid that hormonal time when your boobies may be a bit more tender than usual. Just sayin’. (Wish my damn doctor had told me that before he referred me for one, but then he was a he, right?)
Have been reading your blog for years. Rarely comment b/c, well, I have no idea why. You make me smile and sometimes shake my head too. Thanks for this post. It was educational in a friendly way. I’m close to 40 but not there just yet. I’ll ask my doc when I should go in for my first mammo.
Adding for information’s sake that if you’ve ever had any lumps removed, you get little stickers to put over your scars. They look like railroad tracks or like some of the scars of Frankenstein’s monster.
I of course make inappropriate jokes because of that, but other than that, the boob sandwich is no big deal (oh look another inappropriate joke ;-) )
Oh, Pudding, I have such love for you today. More than my usual amount of love for you. Smiling during the mammogram because it’s the closest you’ll ever get to posing topless. I will privately laugh at this for at least 12 hours. When no one is looking. Probably at the photocopier.
You’re just wonderful.
Thank you for this! My reaction after my first mammogram was kind of like, “Huh, that’s it? Not bad at all.” Now… how about an info-blog about the dreaded colonoscopy? That recommended and routine procedure has me completely freaked out.
I have never had the poncho. Just a regular medical gown thing, mercifully cloth not paper, and they tell you to put the opening in the front. Lately they’ve been putting little silver ball cake decorations on my nipples for the exam. I guess it’s to orient the image when it’s being read but I don’t know.
Here’s something for everyone to laugh about while they’re getting smooshed. I have really pretty small breasts. I have really pretty big feet. Sometimes it’s hard for them to get me close enough to the machine to smoosh all of the breast because my toes bump into it first!
Fair enough. Next time I’m in town, I’ll head directly to St. Louis’ version of Glamour Shots for boobs and demand to be manipulated. We should meet for coffee afterward to discuss.
Nice PSA, FP. I had one at 35 at my doctors insistence and was surprised at how easy and quick it was. I am small-chested (Hello! TMI!) and was worried it would hurt because I don’t have much to squish, but truly no pain at all.
Celebrating with a chai was perfect!
i think the new rules for someone with breast cancer in their family is to get it sooner than 40, too. my dad (a doctor) told me i should get one this year when i have my physical. i’ll be 35 in a month and have some breast cancer in the family.
From my experiences: DON’T wear lotions or deoderant! They WILL find something the first time around, don’t freak, they just need a baseline and to make sure its all good (cysts are common). At my place they have you change into a very comfy pale green short smock thing first, and every time I change and walk into the waiting room I always sit down in a huff next to someone and mutter “I HATE it when I go some place and someone else is wearing the same shirt”… it lightens the mood.
Thank you so much for this post! Mammogram pain does vary with the person, her place in her menstrual cycle (if applicable), and skill of the technician, but most of mine haven’t hurt much either.
Awesome post! Great description, too!
Loved the post! I am not sure if its still done, but for one mammagram the technician placed small ‘snaps’ with adhesive on my nipples. Somehow I forgot to remove them, walked around all day ‘showing off’ and didn’t notice they were still attached until I was trying on clothes much later.
Those are the best smoosh photos ever.
32D eh? Me too!
Just scheduled mine for Monday the 28th @ 10:30 am! Not sure how I am going to celebrate it, but I will! Thanks, Angie.
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