Friday, June 24, 2022

Mammo-Mia! I Got My First Mammogram!

NOTE: There be bewbs ahead! Maybe save this one for after work.


*****

I don't know about you, fellow anxiety warriors, but for me any new body pain sends my brain sprinting towards Worse Case Scenario Valley. So of course when my left armpit and arm gave the slightest of aches the other week, it was RED ALERT ALL HANDS ON PANIC.

You might recall I have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: a pinched nerve in the clavicle area that causes arm and hand numbness and pain. You might also remember my left arm is worse than my right. After months of treatment the numbness is mostly gone, but I still get occasional aches. So, logically, that is the likely culprit.

Does my panicky lizard brain appreciate logic, though?

Ooooof course not.

Adding to the freshly whipped panic smoothie was that we recently adjusted some of my hormone meds, so for the first time in ages, my tracts of land kinda hurt. I am not used to this. I do not like it.

I'd had a breast ultrasound last year, but never an actual mammogram. Like a lot of you with upper acreage, the idea of a mammogram scared the crap out of me. I'd heard the horror stories, and even watched my mom get the squeeze when I was a teenager. Mom has an insanely high pain tolerance, so she barely flinched, but seeing her boobs smashed that flat was traumatizing, ok?


Noooo, second-hand flashbacks...

That said, pain and panic are powerful motivators, and lucky for me a routine mammogram is one of the few medical things here in Orlando that doesn't have a months-long wait. Our imaging clinic had a spot for me in two days, and not only that, they had me in, scanned, and out in under 20 minutes.

Better still, I am relieved and delighted to report IT DIDN'T HURT, y'all. It really didn't! I was still waiting for the "real" pressure to start when the tech said we were done with the first scan. We did three compressions on each side (I assume because it was my first mammo) and each felt like a firm hug between plastic plates, no more, even on my already-tender poofs. I have a low pain tolerance, but I only felt a single uncomfortable pinch during one pass, which I think was more the top plate snagging too much chest skin than the actual squeeze.

Since then I've discovered the reason for my less painful experience may have been the machine. My clinic uses a 3D mammography machine, something not every lab has yet. Our moms had the older 2D machines, and if you remember a super smashy mammogram, it's possible that's what you had, too.

Both 2D and 3D machines look similar, but the 3D ones move in a half circle over you during the scan:


According to everything I'm seeing online these are superior to the 2D scans, with more angles and better imaging, less compressions, and fewer false-positives. They're also better for dense tissue, a plus since that runs in my family.

The older 2D machines are static, and do NOT move during the scan. So if you don't remember the machine moving on its own, then you had a 2D mammogram.



Obviously I can't compare the two since this was my first mammogram, but it makes sense that the newer 3D machines would be less painful. At the very least they need less compressions, since the machine moves around you.

I can't find any current stats on how many 3D machines are in the U.S., but an article from 2019 reported about 60% of imaging facilities having them, so it's got to be more by now.

So listen, if you're scared like I was and putting off getting your mammogram, ask for a 3D machine! I can't promise your experience will be as pain-free as mine was, but at least there's a chance. And what I can promise you is the waiting and worrying are by far the worst part. I wish I'd done this sooner; I could've spared myself so much stress and Xanax.


Friendly reminder. :D


I haven't had any after-effects or pain after my mammogram; just the same slight ache I've had for a week or so now, no worse. I'm still anxious waiting on the results, but as always DOING SOMETHING helped. Provided this is all clear, my next step is a heart CT scan. So if you're the type who prays or sends out calming warm-hug vibes, I'd very much appreciate either.

That reminds me: since this is my first mammogram, several of you mentioned it's normal for the clinic to call me back for more scans or even an ultrasound, to get a baseline. I don't know if that's true for 3D mammograms or not, but I appreciate the heads up. Hopefully now I won't get too panicky if and when that happens!

I wasn't going to post about this here, fam, but your flood of DMs after I mentioned it in my Stories convinced me otherwise.
 


So many of you are where I was last week: scared and putting off something you know you need for your own self-care. I hope this encourages you to do a little more research and make the call, and also gives you some reassurance that a mammogram isn't always painful.


I told John last week that if men had to get screened like this, we'd have a pain-free Mammogram in a year.

And one last ray of hope, because there actually IS a pain-free mammogram machine on the way, and I need someone to nerd out with me about it:


There are new, completely compression free mammogram machines out there, y'all. They're still rare, but at least a few dozen are in use around the U.S.! They're basically tables with a boob hole: you lie down, and the scanner underneath circles your boob in a single pass.



Like I said, these are VERY new and rare, so you'll have to hunt to find one near you. (The nearest we found in Florida was Daytona Beach.) I hope these take off and are in every U.S. clinic soon, though. The two brands I've seen are Koning & QT , if you'd like to do more research. Even if they're not an option for all of us yet, it's exciting to think that someday a mammogram could be as easy as lying on a table for a few seconds. Ahh, dare to dream...


Now, go have an awesome weekend, you. See you Tuesday!


*****

P.S. Since we're talking boobs, let me give a quick shout-out my favorite wire-free bra. I have three of these - just bought a fourth today! - and they're all I've been wearing lately:

Warner's Easy Does It Seamless Wireless Bra

Up 'til last year I ONLY wore wired bras - usually Warners -  and it took buying-and-returning over a dozen different brands and styles before I found a wireless one I liked. This one averages $25-30 Prime, but I watch the listing and buy any color that goes on sale for less than $20. Today "Lilac" is on sale for $18, so I just snagged one of those.

Unfortunately these don't come in traditional sizes and max out at a 3X, so your mileage will vary with the fit. I wear a 34DDD or 36DD  and have "bottom heavy" boobs, and wear a size Large. I love the under-arm smoothing panel - no dig or pinch! - and like most Warners, these are incredibly comfortable. Be sure to check the image gallery for a better idea of how they look on larger tracts of land, since this product model is tiny.


44 comments:

  1. Yay for you! And everyone out there - if you're the right age and gender for a mammogram, don't put it off. We love you and want you to be here for a long, long time!!

    Also - prayers*and* calming warm-hug vibes headed your way. Don't forget to breathe.

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  2. High five! I just had my first mammogram in May, and my experience sounds a lot like yours. Not bad at all - definitely didn't live up to the hype (my HSG test years ago, on the other hand . . . way more painful than most of the reviews said, and I have a fairly high pain tolerance). Thank goodness for the new machines. And thanks for encouraging others to have it done - so important.

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  3. It is definitely time for me to schedule my second ever mammogram, and I do keep putting it off, so thank you for the reminder and the push to do it. My first one was a boob-squishing experience, but I found the most painful part to be taking off the nipple stickers afterwards - owie. I will look into providers with 3D machines in my area! Thank you again! Sending you all of the virtual hugs and love and support from NYC <3

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    1. Whoa, “nipple stickers”? I’ve never heard of these, are they for modesty? o.O

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    2. I get nipple stickers, each with a little bb in it. The bb shows up as a white dot so the radiologist knows the position of your nipple on each film.

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    3. The stickers are also used to indicate moles - I have a couple that are closely examined & tracked. I asked if there were ones with tassels for nipples... Found out I wasn't the first to ask ;)

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  4. So glad you got the "magical" 3D machine. My first one with the 2d was awful, and painful, and I cried, and I had to go back a second because I moved too much. So I didn't do a mammogram for a couple of years after that. But lo and behold, when I went back last they were using the 3D machines...man what a difference!

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    1. The 3D machines are an amazing improvement for both patient comfort & high resolution

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  5. I'm waiting for the dogs that can sniff out cancer to get themselves jobs at my clinic...

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  6. So I guess mine was 3D, but I also have the impression that it hurts less for bustier women (like me) than the smaller folks. One advantage we have, I guess. I was one of those called back for a follow up and an ultrasound after my very first mammogram… which then led to a biopsy. It ended up being exactly what the radiologist suspected, a benign fibroadenoma. I wasn’t sure anxious FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE and I have no idea why, but now they look at it every year and see it hasn’t changed so I continue to have peace of mind. The whole process was nowhere near as bad as I might have expected.

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    1. Storm the KlingonJune 25, 2022 at 3:13 AM

      I had my first tit test back in Jan.'21, and had exactly the same trip; call back, ultrasound (the nurse/tech was a total grumpus, and didn't speak to me the whole time, even when I said I was curious because I never had babies and had never had one done before, the dozy cow), then a biopsy that turned out blessedly benign. Did they LoJack that area on you with a wee microchip like they did me (so they can keep track of the area)?

      To say I was nervous and worried is an understatement; only Ativan and kindbud got me through. When I'm nervous, I tend to wisecrack and laugh, even though I'm screaming inside. The nurse/tech that assisted with the biopsy wasn't the same grumpus from before, and as she helped get me sorted with the hospital johnny, I said "So hey, the old girls ain't too bad for pushing 53, huh? I mean, I come from three generations of women whose boobs ended up looking like oranges hanging in a pair of socks, so I feel pretty good." She laughed so hard, she had to lean on the exam table for a second. She was awesome.

      Your Pal,

      Storm the Klingon

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  7. My first mammo was 22 years ago, so 2D. I was totally afraid of the entire process but knew it would be good to get a baseline near my fortieth birthday. I FAINTED, and I was attached to the dXm machine! Holy cow! I'm 5'10", and the tech was this tiny, tiny person. She yelled for help and held me up until reinforcements came in to help me get detached. Pretty embarrassing, pretty painful...but it's a great story:) Every time my doctor tells me to get one I go. Had 2D for many years and not fun, but the alternative of not finding out "if" there is a problem is not what I want to face. I now go to a clinic that is 3D, and it is truly wonderful! Basic message: go get it done! A little bit of intense pain is so worth the knowledge gained.

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  8. Good for you Jen! I don’t mind mammograms (also very large bust) but I put off my first colonoscopy for a couple of years, which is not a smart thing to do. I finally did it at age 52. It wasn’t fun but neither the prep nor the procedure were as bad as I had dreaded.

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  9. Yay that you had a good-ish experience with it! I have had 2 ½ mammograms so far (called back for reimagine of one side with my last full set of pics). I have had the 2D only and it is extremely painful for me. I don't know if it has anything to do with size (I'm a member of the IBTC, could never call what I have "tracts of land!" so not much there to squish), or if my tatas are just chock full o' nerves or WHAT- but the tech for my call-back one was not kind or sympathetic about that. I know it's not an overall low tolerance to pain. Requesting to NOT see her next time.

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  10. Go get your mammograms folx!! And if you think there’s a lump, get it checked out.
    Funny you should mention the 2D and 3D machines. Between the time I felt a lump (and got it ‘grammed) and the time I got my biopsy of said scary lump, my clinic/hospital upgraded. And here I thought they were so gentle with me because they’d just taken a bunch of samples. Maybe it was both things?

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  11. I'm due for my first one this year. I have to start early because my mom had breast cancer. I appreciate this!

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  12. If it helps, most early breast badness does NOT hurt. So achy boobs are not a symptom of anything evil. That said, this is why self exam is important. Feeling a painless lump means you need to get it checked out! And remember that your partner can also help with breast exams - lots of lumps are actually found first by an intimate partner.

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  13. I SO appreciate this. Just turned 40 earlier this year and initially needed to find the paper. Then my GYN called with a reminder and THEN the imaging place called and I'm scheduled in August. Which gives me time to check if they are 3D. I'm hopeful since it's part of a hospital system... you'd think they have better access to newer stuff.

    Also - do you feel you slip UNDER the bottom band of that Warners at all? I used to be a 28 band but I'm currently close to 32DDD or so with my last shopping haul. I usually can't find something that manages the tracts that's snug enough around the rib cage.

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  14. I have dense tissues and not a lot of acreage. There is some pain for me with the 3D, but less than the 2D (which was only the first year). I'm one who had a follow-up ultrasound the first year. They were satisfied with what they saw and now it's noted in my chart so they can just watch for any changes.

    One other thing--- One side hurt more this year and I immediately mentioned it because that had been the case for a friend who was subsequently diagnosed. THERE ARE LOTS OF REASONS WHY THAT MIGHT BE. My tech started listing them while she was still verifying the scans had come through clearly, including that she herself had noticed that arm was more tense while she was getting me into position. Hello, dominant mouse arm. :D

    I also get to start alternating 3D mammograms with breast MRIs, with the first one this fall (family history + a moderate-risk gene). We'll see how that compares!

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    1. I've also got a heck of a family history, so I've had to do the whole suite, mammo, ultrasound and MRI. Of the three I honestly found the ultrasound the most uncomfortable (I'm not particularly busty but they had the 3D mammo machine so that wasn't bad), and the ultrasound was only uncomfortable because the tech kept going over the same small area over and over.

      The MRI was not that bad at all. First, you're face down, like on a massage table, so you can't see the tube (which hopefully helps folks with claustrophobia). Second, at least for me, the sound was so all-encompassing that I couldn't even really think, so I didn't exactly notice the passage of time. I had headphones playing music, but the way they have to work (because of course no metal in the MRI!) is like an old-fashioned speaking tube, so the sound quality was pretty poor. It took all my remaining brain capacity to tell if the song was Smells Like Teen Spirit or Sandman.

      The worst parts were that it was 1) cold, 2) undignified (though the nurses were all super professional which helped) and 3) I didn't love the IV for the contrast, but again that sound was so much I didn't actually notice the nurse move my arm, so again, not bad. Oh yeah, and it's a big chunk of the work day, like over an hour with all the set-up.

      Good luck and clear scans!

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  15. Prayers and happy thoughts to you! And thank you for sharing. I've not had a mammogram yet, but I know I'm probably getting close to needing one in the next few years. I am a planner, so it's nice to hear what other people experienced and what I should expect.

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  16. I've only ever had the 3D ones, but they're still not great for me so I can only imagine how bad a 2D would be. Looking forward to the boob hole technology. I have dense tissue so they also have me do an ultrasound every year, as well. Is it my favorite thing to do? Nope, but I do it anyway.

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  17. Even the 3D machines hurt for me, but you know what? It's worth it. It's a few minutes of discomfort to potentially save your life. It's a simple fact that the earlier you detect cancer the better your odds. Worth it. Those new table machines? Those are going to hurt me too. I'm too large to comfortably lay on my stomach. It will just be the *other* one that hurts during a scan. It will still be worth it. Get squished!

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  18. I'm due this year, so put off my gyn appointment until I knew I needed the mammo too. But I've heard that it's more painful for those with barely there boobs... and frankly, when I see any of the machines, I'm like "How in the world is that going to work for me??" Fingers crossed for the 3D scanner.

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    1. Just try to remember that MEN can get breast cancer as well. Therefore, men also need to get mammograms sometimes. If they can get manboobs in the machine, I'm sure yours will fit! :)

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  19. First of all, that picture with "breast is inserted here"?? It could be the angle but that looks like a VERY small hole. Is that just me? Second: the Mammo Grahams are HiLARious!!! Third, I can't hear, see, or have a mammogram without thinking of my dear friend Anna Maria. She was a nun a big chunk of her life, and when she left she had a lot of new learning experiences. Eventually, in her 50's, she was told to get a mammogram for the first time. She knew what they were, but had never actually gotten one. When she got there she explained it was her first time and the tech, as they so often are, was kind and explained everything to her. She told me later she stood there with her mouth open, then started laughing. "THAT'S how you take a mammogram??!!" She couldn't believe they squished your, uh, tracks of land between two hard plastic plates. One of my many good memories of her. She couldn't even tell the story without breaking into giggles.
    I've never heard of (nor experienced) a 3D mammogram machine. You were VERY blessed to have had one your first time! I promise you the 2D hurts. Fourthly (is that a word?) good on you, Jen, for doing the thing.

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  20. As someone who’s already had (and beaten! breast cancer at 45 and likes you a whole bunch, thank you for going to get this done and for sharing that it’s not really that bad You get the super-adulting badge for today! And I hope your message encourages others to get their scans too.

    Oh, and super common for them to want an ultrasound even with the 3D machine. In fact, it’s pretty common to need a biopsy. I’ve done many over the years. There is no need to fear until they tell you something is wrong.

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  21. I am 69, so have had mammograms annually for almost 30 years. All of the nurses have been very kind and supportive through the process, and it usually takes longer to undress and get dressed again than the actual mammograms takes. The 3D machines are a huge improvement. They also are able to take higher def pictures when needed, without additional compression-they simply use a more powerful magnifier now. As one who also has been through 3 rounds of breast cancer,l over 20+ years, I can vouch for early detection. Still being here after all these years is well worth a few minutes of discomfort once a year.

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  22. Sending calming warm hug vibes from across the Pond.
    I love all the different ways you refer to 'the girls' - I also have vast tracts of land!

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  23. My very first mammo at 40 (in a 2D machine) found a benign cyst in my left breast. I have not missed one since. Now in a 3D machine makes it much easier. I too am "top heavy" and while the top to bottom "smoosh" didn't really bother VERY low pain tolerance me, the side to side "smoosh" really hurt in the old machines. It's notsomuch any more. And truly, for the peace of mind, it's worth 30 seconds of owie to me. I am ordering one of your recommended bras! I have an awful time finding ones I like. I ordered your no buckle belt and LOVE it, so I', hoping for the same result with the bra.

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  24. I saw your IG story the day before I had a doctor's appointment scheduled. I do not enjoy medical visits and so had been putting this one off for a looong time. I was actually having thoughts about cancelling the appointment, but your story encouraged me to hold fast and go. Even though the visit was uncomfortable, the doctor I saw was very kind and helpful, and I'm proud of myself for going through with it. So thank you, Jen, for sharing these bits of your personal life--this one came at just the right time to give me that extra bit of courage I needed!

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  25. Between this and my 4-years-younger-than-me sister getting her first mammo this week, I have finally been prompted to schedule my first one only about 6 years later than I should have. My insurance covers 3D mammograms at 100%, and there's an imaging center with a 3D machine not 10 minutes from my house with appointments until at least 6 pm as well as Saturday appointments, so there's literally no reason not to get it. So thank you for this timely reminder. I should probably also schedule a pap test, since it's been at least 2 or 3 years since my last one of those, IIRC.

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  26. So, had my 1st during my mid 30s, needle aspirations, and biopsies... so lucky me, no cancer, but I get to go once or twice a year because I have suspicious boobs (there's a joke in there somewhere, feel free to find it). Now in my mid 60s the visits range from the run of the mill mammograms to what my husband referred to as "Mega-grams", lol. Lastly, the main reason I'm commenting:

    -> MEN CAN ALSO GET BREAST CANCER.

    So guys, please for the love of Rudy, if you feel something 'odd' or things 'don't look right', don't be weird about getting things checked out because your male brain tells you it's impossible. At 64 yrs. I have know 4 FOUR unrelated men who have had breast cancer, one who died because he literally waited until it was too late because at first he thought men couldn't get breast cancer, then he delayed because it was embarrassing to think that he, an actual GUY, had a "female" cancer -which was total BS and eventually killed him. SO...

    Moral of the story, cancer doesn't care who you are ->it just wants to kill you. Finding it EARLY is the best defense and gives you the advantage. Take good care of yourself and kick cancer's butt.

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  27. Thanl you so much for this! It has been so long since my last exam and I have been so scared to get one since the last one was so painful. I'm going to schedule one on Monday.

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  28. When my facility switched from 2D to 3D, I got a call back for additional images. Turns out, what they saw was on the prior year films but wasn't clear. I had to go back six months later to be sure it wasn't changing in size; I got the all clear and I haven't had any issues since.

    I agree with one of the positions being "extra pinchy" but that's usually the only issue.

    Congratulations!

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  29. Congratulations! I am doing all the hoping, wishing and praying for all the good outcomes. And nice job sharing your experience so others can benefit. I had my first one at 24 (it's a long story) and it really wasn't bad (and it was the older squishier model). One last note, for everyone on here - if someone is doing a test on you and you feel uncomfortable or unsupported, please remember that you can say no and walk away to reschedule another day (with another person, at another place, with a different machine, perhaps with someone with you, and/or with a medication to make you feel more in control). I suck at advocating for myself, but I have learned to do so through advocating for others.

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  30. Haven't had my first mammogram yet but I did have my first colonoscopy earlier this year (starting early because of a family history). It's another of those Scary Adult Things that many people put off because it seems awful and gross, and I'm here to assure you that it's eminently survivable. Read all the tips online, particularly around adding flavoring to the prep drink, chilling it, and using a straw. Block off an evening and get a good book to read or mobile game to play and just settle in for a couple hours of staying close to a toilet. For the procedure itself, you'll either be fully anesthetized or under twilight sedation, so you're somewhat conscious but very relaxed and feeling minimal discomfort. It's over quickly and it's your best bet of heading off a cancer that often shows no signs until it's quite late (and is showing up in more and more people under 50, hence the recent change in preventive care guidelines to start screening at age 45).

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  31. Yay, Jen! I did Mammos for about 20 years. People need to remember that you really don't need to worry about panicking during your mammo. Believe me, there really isn't much we haven't seen. But please do your mammo tech a favor, especially during a heat wave like we have now. Please bathe the morning of your mammo. A quick swipe with some soap and water to get rid of funkiness is greatly appreciated!



















































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  32. I got my first mammogram at the beginning of this year. It was awkward but not painful really. The only thing that freaked me out was that I have dense breasts and the doctor's note said I had to get a second screening because they saw a "finding." I fretted for 2 weeks until they did the second screening and they informed me there was nothing to worry about and it was just the denseness of the breast can lead to abnormal results and they need to double check.

    Also, I just turned 40 and I don't know who the boys in the meme are. New Kids on the Block?? Someone help :D

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  33. Huh. Maybe the poster above who posited that we ladies with a bit more acreage (as Jen put it) don't have much pain during a mammo. I'm pretty sure I had the old 2D ones up until a few years ago, and they never hurt. I'm sorry for those that feel the pain though. What I think is interesting is the difference in the amount/kinds of testing people are getting. My mom had breast cancer. No one has ever mentioned a CT scan or an MRI to me. Hmmm....

    Ariela HvM, I believe that is New Kids on the Block, so see? You're right!

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  34. Glad to hear they've improved the process. I'm not one to be arguing with the medical profession about everything, but I just *cannot* accept that squishing any part of a body the way the 2D ones do is good for it. But I am approaching the age when I'll have to start thinking about this stuff, and this is definitely helping bring me around from the "hells no" camp.

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  35. OMG, yes! on the compression-free mammograms. The center were I went for my mammogram was running tests to verify accuracy on the QT one. So they were asking people with slightly abnormal scans to volunteer for a scan on the new system. Took about 15 min and there was absolutely no pain. You're just hanging in a big vat of warm water while they shoot ultrasound at you. The day can't come soon enough when that's the default option.

    For those looking at their first mammogram, my friend's advice served me well: expect them to find stuff because they have nothing to compare it against, and likely it will be nothing.

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