I turned 40 at the beginning of this blog (making it sound like 40 is somehow the blog’s fault). Here in United StatesLand, women are supposed to get their first mammograms at 40 if they haven’t had one already. It used to be 35 and that was called your “base mammogram” but, apparently, too many breasts were still too full of breastliness and so medical professionals upped it to 40 when our breasts have really started to deteriorate. Or so I’m assuming.
Anyhow, like so many other women going in for their first mammograms, I was treated to a platter full of war stories. Several of my moms (I have many) told me that mammograms are almost as bad as giving birth in a Saharan dust storm with the assistance of hungry lions. At least, that’s what I thought I heard as I listened to their, “Oh, it hurts SO BADLY and I ALMOST DIED!” tales.
Thus, it was with some trepidation I entered the examining room and stood before the x-ray machine. Imagine my surprise when the whole procedure took all of two minutes and that included the moving and shifting and getting all four pictures. In fact, the actual squishing and photographing of my breasts took less than 30 seconds.
As soon as I was finished, I thought, “Huh. That wasn’t fun by any stretch. I don’t want to do it every day. But it also wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been told. I’ve suffered much worse.” I had to tell Facebook about my experience ASAP.
I said: As far as Milestones of Womanhood go, the first mammogram is waaay easier than the first period and the first attempt at sex. It’s also less messy than the first kiss, though the fondling and squishing are about the same. The only thing for which I was not prepared was the odd positions I had to adopt to stand in front of the machine; I briefly regretted not taking Modern Dance in college.
So, old ladies? STOP telling horror stories about mammograms. It may have been torture back in the day and I’m sure it’s unpleasant if your boobs are on the small side but it is NOT the torture you people (MOM) made it out to be.
My status then started a conversation (Gabe and I are always amazed at which things we say online bring on the commentary) and while most women my age were “meh” about it (it hurts but it’s such a short amount of time that who cares? or It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected) there were several who said it causes them great pain and trauma, or has had in the past.
So I thought about it. Did it really hurt me? No. It was an awfully irritating full-on pinch and had someone done that to me outside of a doctor’s office, I’d have screamed at that person and punched him/her. Probably him. But it didn’t leave me wanting to cry. But COULD it have hurt me? Why, yes, I imagine it could have. For instance, had I gone in too close to a period when my boobs were sore and aching, it would have been more than unpleasant. If my breasts were small, it would have hurt more because all that pulling to get one into the grips and then the smooshing to keep it in place and what with there being no fat for cushioning? Yeah, that would hurt. If I had a low tolerance for pain, I’d have left the place in tears. But none of those things were true for me, thus, the experience wasn’t bad.
If you’re going in for your first mammogram and you’re freaking out about it because everyone says it’s going to make you die, don’t worry. It won’t make you die. It might hurt. It might even be awful. But it’s super-fast. It may be embarrassing if you’re not comfortable showing bare breasts to lab technicians and equipment but it’s not going to be mortifying. They’ve seen this all before.
Kotex put together a quick little list of things to think about when going in for your first mammogram. I’d be interested to hear other people’s advice.
And horror stories. But they have to be true. You can’t make crap up to scare the incoming mammogram generation. This isn’t a hazing ritual, people.