I’m 30 and I just had my first mammogram and ultrasound. I’ve decided to talk about this topic openly here, despite it not having any relation to my regular craft posts because I feel that there are not enough young women talking about breast cancer. Hence, I have not really paid much attention to my own breasts.
At my age, none of my previous doctors have ever offered to do a breast examination on me, even when I’ve mentioned my family’s breast cancer history. But I’ve been seeing an excellent doctor regularly over the last year and when it was time for my regular pap smear, she also suggested that it was a good time to do a breast exam.
She asked me whether I’ve self-examined my breasts before and I told her honestly that even though I have, I can’t really tell whether there are abnormalities. You see, I am thin and have small breasts. Everything just feels like breast tissue to me. But the doctor did find lumps on both breasts which does not feel like normal breast tissue. She said not to worry and to go get a mammogram and ultrasound. This happened just prior to leaving for Singapore and I had to wait until I came home from the trip before I could make the appointment. So it’s been quite an anxious few weeks from the discovery to the actual mammogram and ultrasound.
When I was at the clinic and was directed to the mammogram room by a young female technologist, I felt rather shy and nervous. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. She asked me a few questions and explained the procedure to me. I asked her naively how she is going to squeeze my small breasts between the two plates. She answered, “We have ways to do it”. Her so-called ways were to gently pull and squeeze my breast into place. Then the plates pressed down very hard on the breast before she quickly ran over to the computer to take the scan. Each breast was scanned from top to bottom and side to side.
Well, besides being rather embarrassing and slightly painful, the right breast scan went without much of a hitch. But the left breast scan hurt like hell! One of the lumps that my GP found was in the top of my left breast and when the two plates squeezed down from top to bottom, I was in so much pain, I was tapping the machine and let out a little scream. I begged her to loosen the plates but she apologized and quickly ran over to the computer to get the scan and ran back to release me! Arrrgghhh. I still feel weak just thinking of it! Then I still had to do the side to side scan on the same breast but luckily that was fine.
She apologised and said that the pain was probably from a cyst. “Cyst! What?! Is that bad?” I asked worriedly. She said the ultrasound will show more. We looked at my mammogram scans on her computer screen and she said that she couldn’t see anything abnormal. Most lumps come and go depending on hormone levels.
My ultrasound sonographer was a young British man named Simon. It was weird being in the room alone with him, exposing my gel-covered breasts to a total male stranger. We chatted about where we were from and how we felt living in Australia now. Conversation was light and easy but not enough for me to forget why I was there. He found quite a few lumps in both my breasts and one was a rather large one at the top of my left breast. The cyst. He said it was difficult to say whether lumps are good or bad but from what he can tell, they all look harmless.
“What makes you think it’s harmless?” I asked. He replied that he can easily see behind and around the lump via ultrasound. It’s not a solid looking mass which is uneven. “But you cannot tell for sure unless we do a biopsy, which is up to your doctor,” he concluded. Right. He thanked me quickly and told me that was all for today.
Well, I’ve discussed the results with my GP. The lump of concern is on my right breast and it is most likely benign. However, we will ultrasound it again in six months to see whether there are any changes. The pain I felt during the mammogram on my left breast is probably from the mammary glands being squashed and no, there is no cyst as thought by the technicians.
Despite the ackward, embarrasing and slightly painful experience, I’m really glad that I have done this. The most important thing is that I have started a record of my breasts for future reference and it has given me peace of mind. I hope that by sharing my experience I have started some of you thinking about your breasts and general health and well-being.
Thanks for allowing me to digress and we’ll be talking about crafts as per usual on Friday.