My Baseline Mammogram at 36

Today was the day of my baseline mammogram. With my family history in mind, I scheduled it so I’ll have a good picture of what my breast tissue looks like now to best address possible changes in the future.

I was a bit nervous having heard stories of women saying it’s very uncomfortable and can be painful. Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as I expected! In fact, I think having a Pap smear is more invasive (duh) and “painful” or irritating than my mammogram was today.

We are so lucky to have a state-of-the-art comprehensive cancer center on the campus of UNC.

unc cancer center 2

unc cancer center

The building was completed a few years ago, and I recall watching its progress next door, from the upper story of the building I worked in at UNC’s information technology department. The reception and various department waiting areas are elegantly designed and comforting ; the check-in process is very efficient.

unc mammography dept

Getting a mammogram at such a large institution feels somewhat like a cattle call. Women being shuffled in and out of a private waiting lounge for scans, reviews and more scans, as was my case. The only real downside was my scans took just over two hours so I had to reschedule my appointment with the oncologist to discuss my options for genetic testing (for abnormal BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes).

For those younger gals, like me, who are having their first baseline mammogram, the process is pretty comprehensive…expect 3-4 scans per breast. And then possibly a few follow-up scans and/or an ultrasound if the radiologist finds an area to explore more. I’m not sure why but they keep it sort chilly in the radiology lap…you’d think they’d up the thermostat a bit knowing dozens of women each day are exposing their nips (when they’re supposed to be relaxed). It doesn’t help to wear a thin, drafty, one-size-fits-all gown. Brrrr!

hospital gown

The mammogram itself was not painful. It’s slightly uncomfortable standing in a strange position (hips/chest straight, head/neck turned to the side and pressed against the top of the machine) while each breast is pressed (i.e. after a stranger has positioned your girls like chicken cutlets) between two acrylic molds, and you’re told to breathe in, hold your breath and stand very still while the image is taken. Aside from that, I was expecting real pain – shooting, high-pressure, something, however the only thing I felt was awkward and relieved it wasn’t worse. In all honesty, I was really happy the device didn’t look like a human-sized metal vice (which is, of course, what I imagined).

My scans were clean (woo-hoo!), so I’m instructed to come back at age 40 (a mere 4 years from now…um, wha??!! Where does the time go??!!). I’m feeling relieved now this step is complete. I knew I was anxious when last night I dreamt they found a lump and I needed a biopsy right away. Luckily, that was just nerves.

On a side note, I’m praying for my mom this week because she’s starting her first round of chemotherapy. Each patient can respond differently to treatment. Will she be tired? Will she be nauseated? Will she lose her hair? If so, how long until she starts to lose it? She’s been so strong through this process thus far, and I know she’s committed to keeping a positive attitude throughout the chemo treatment. She’s got a lot of people pulling for her so I hope that helps during the rough days ahead.

I can’t wait to see my mom at Thanksgiving when my husband, daughter and I will join my parents in Illinois to give thanks for what has turned out to be an unexpected year. My brother and his wife will also be there, and we (kids) are in charge of the turkey dinner and entertainment. Should be a fun visit with great memories!! (Many of which I’m sure will find their way to this blog!)

One thought on “My Baseline Mammogram at 36

  1. Brava, Jill! I go yearly and have for many years. A little squish and I’m good to go for 12 months. I’m exceedingly grateful for good medical care. I’m lighting candles all over Sicily for your mom!

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