I Faced My Fears & Got A Mammogram—And You Should Too

When my doctor found a lump in my breast, she immediately referred me to a mammogram specialist. I was only in my twenties and didn’t know anyone who’d been through something similar, so I was truly terrified. It turned out I had zero to worry about. Here’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to take charge of your breast health too.

Lumps don’t automatically mean cancer.

 It’s only natural for panic to set in if you find a lump in your boob, but especially if you’re young and have no family history of breast cancer, the likelihood that it’s a cancerous lump is slimmer than your brain would have you believe. It could be anything from a cyst to a noncancerous growth to nothing but dense tissue. Don’t jump to conclusions and get yourself worked up for nothing. Besides, even if it turns out to be serious, a breast can be removed and reconstructed.

It’s not at all like in the movies.

 Mammograms crop up in movie scenes all the time. More often than not, they portray a nasty experience (Leslie Mann’s excruciating performance in This Is 40 springs to mind!) but you have to remember that life isn’t like a movie. These depictions of what happens during a mammogram are designed to be entertaining. If they actually filmed a real mammogram, it would be rather dull.

They honestly don’t hurt.

 I can’t express this enough. Movies have a lot to answer for really, constantly showing a woman squashing her boob between two plates and screaming in pain. I have rather sensitive breasts plus a nipple piercing and I would say the experience was uncomfortable at worst. I say “uncomfortable” as everyone’s pain threshold is different. Personally, I consider mine to be very low and my mammogram was no worse than wearing the too-tight-for-me bra I love too much to throw away!

You don’t need to know what to do. 

You’ll be with a specialist who performs countless mammograms every day and knows exactly what to do. Maybe if you’ve had one before, the doctor will presume you’ll assume the positions yourself. However, I simply told her I hadn’t a clue and she did it all for me. Yes, she had to move my boobs into various positions to get a clear scan of the top, bottom and sides of each breast, but she was gentle, perfunctory, and ultimately professional. Once you’re in position, the technician will tell you when not to move or breathe for a few counts and that’s pretty much all there is to the procedure.

It’s far less invasive than a pap smear.

 We all know how important smear tests are, but nobody can deny that they’re invasive. In comparison to a pap smear, a mammogram is a breeze. There’s no reason to be embarrassed—they see boobs of all shapes and sizes every day. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be standing in a room naked from the waist up than legs spread, naked from the waist down.

You most likely won’t wait long for results. 

While every location will be slightly different, mammograms don’t take a lot of processing. The images don’t have to be sent away like swab tests to be analyzed. If there’s a problem or an unclear reading, they’ll be able to tell pretty immediately. As soon as my mammogram was finished (it only lasted around 10 minutes), I was told my breast tissue was too dense for a perfect reading and an ultrasound was needed afterward just to be sure.

You’ll have to have one at some point anyway.

Depending on where you live, once you reach a certain age, many healthcare providers will offer free mammograms. This is because you’re more susceptible to breast cancer as you age. Mother nature is pretty cruel that way—you can stop getting smears but they’re replaced by regular mammograms. Like it or lump it, it’s part of being a woman and once you’ve had one, you won’t ever fear them the same way again.

You’ll understand your breasts better afterward.

If you’re nervous, ask some questions—that’s what doctors are there for. In my case, my lump turned out to be nothing. Like, actually nothing. There was a lump, there still is a lump, but it was nothing more than dense breast tissue. I admit that before this happened, I never really checked my breasts, not because I didn’t think it was important or I didn’t make time for it but because I really had no clue what to look for or how to do it. Now I know the right amount of pressure to apply (more than you’d think) and what’s normal for my apparently lumpy boobs. I can check whenever I want to be sure that lump doesn’t change size or shape or that others aren’t popping up, and I’m more aware of my changing nipple colors than ever.

Your friends will come to you when it’s their turn.

 If you’re the first of your friends to experience a mammogram, you’ll be the one they come to when it’s their turn whether that’s in two years or 20. Because you’ve been through it and know there’s nothing to be afraid of, it’ll feel great to be able to put their mind at ease.

Checking your breasts will become natural.

 Regularly checking your boobs will become second nature and you’ll know you’re doing the right thing for your body and health. Lastly, don’t settle for a general practitioner you aren’t comfortable with. They’ll become your go-to person should you ever be in doubt about anything you feel in your breasts, so don’t be afraid to try different doctors until you find someone you’d recommend to a friend.

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