Having turned 40-10 this year, I got called up for my first routine mammogram. I’ll be honest with you, I was quite anxious about it all and scared about the process of having my breasts medically squashed. I’d heard that there’s quite a bit of compression during the scan, that it can be a bit uncomfortable but that it’s over relatively quickly. Now, I’m normally very pragmatic about these sorts of things but the very thought of having it done, made me wince. In truth, I didn’t want them squashed like that. I didn’t want to be uncomfortable and I didn’t want it done…but I knew it was for the best.
Knowing my anxiety, my close friend kindly offered to drive me to the hospital. She said, ‘We’ll go to Hinchingbrooke Park beforehand, have a cup of tea and a nice time.’ This was an excellent plan!
So, with instructions not to arrive more than 10 minutes before, I reported to the mobile unit, only to be told this was in fact the MRI unit…oh dear, my preoccupied mind just didn’t see it. Laughing, we headed down the access road to A&E, continued along and turned left where the Out-Patients Physiotherapy car park is and the Breast Screening mobile unit is right there.
…and so off I went up the steps to the dreaded unknown. I rang the doorbell and knocked. The door futuristically slowly slid open, disappointed, accompanied by no Star Trek noise sadly. I was duly processed and moved along the unit with it all feeling quite surreal. I was greeted by a smiling, warm and welcoming Radiographer. Phew! I blurted out that I was feeling very scared that it would hurt. She reassured me that it would be fine and that she would manually control the compression to help me through. I felt instant relief that I was now in their hands…a few minutes later, I literally was!
She explained that each one gets two scans, in two positions. One scan squashes the tissue from the top downwards and the second from the side. I was given clear instructions on how to line myself up to this strange, huge photocopier, whilst the Radiographer placed and positioned my left breast on the glass table of the scanner. She manipulated it to get it perfectly placed, explaining everything brilliantly and then down came the other glass platform to compress it. The machine held me and then from the top of the muscle (the Pec) the scanner firmly pushed downwards and I felt like I was in a vice. NOT painful thankfully, just hugely intense and I was doing all I could to mentally disconnect, and brace whilst trying to relax. I heard the compression release and my left one was free again. At this moment, I just burst into tears…relief that it wasn’t painful and I’d done it!
The Radiographer was concerned and sympathetic. I apologised, said she was so kind and that nothing was wrong, just my emotion. The next 3 scans happened in the same way as the first. The scans from the side were tricker and more time was needed to get into position. I had to hold onto the handle at the back and twist, whilst pushing my ribs against the edge plate. Thank goodness for Pilates, which helped to get into these positions easier! The Radiographer was praising at every stage, checking I was okay to proceed. It was not rushed and care was taken every step of the way.
…and then, it was all done! The scans only took minutes but I felt when I stepped out as if I had been in a time warp. Shaking slightly and feeling wobbly, I descended the steps and called my friend to say that I was all done! It was such a relief that the horrible squashy thing had actually gone okay. The unknown, now known. Thank you to the Radiographer on duty that day at Hinchingbrooke. You were wonderful.
I know that we all have to go through medical poking and prodding in our lives and the routine checks are flagged by age but it’s so important for your health to do these checks. Take time out to check yourself regularly for any unusual changes and make those appointments when you get your NHS invitations.