Normally, women get the first mammogram when they hit 40. But my OB/Gyn likes to have a benchmark from when you’re 35 to compare to later scans. Ever the procrastinator when it comes to my health, I made my appointment for a week before my 36th birthday.
I was actually really nervous about it because I sort of thought I maybe knew what to expect but wasn’t completely sure what all it entailed. I nervously asked around and Googled and messaged my sister-in-law who assured me there was nothing to worry about.
Worried anyway, I showed up to the appointment.
The staff at Solis Mammography couldn’t have been nicer and more reassuring. They guided me to a changing area complete with pink gowns to change into, and directed me to put my things in a locker. (The lockers were awesome. Each one had the name of a fabulous famous lady. You could put your stuff in with the likes of Laura Bush, Elizabeth Taylor, Cher, or Dolly Parton. I chose Dolly.)
Despite their courtesy and professionalism, there were a couple of things I wish I had known going in.
1. Don’t Wear Deodorant. You’ll just have to wipe it off and then make a run to Walgreens before you go back to work. Speaking of Walgreens . . . .
2. Be sure you’re not pregnant. It had been more than 10 days since my last period, so they would not do the mammogram without a negative pregnancy test. Thanks again, Walgreens! (Those were a tense few minutes.)
Luckily, they were able to work me in for later that week. With proof positive (er . . . negative) in hand, I went back for the second try.
Here’s what happens: You stand up straight and place your breast up on a platform. Then they very firmly mash another flat surface on top of it and take a few x-rays. It’s uncomfortable, but just for a couple of minutes. Kind of like getting x-rays at the dentist, except on your lady parts.
If you have breastfed without any problems, this should be a similarly awkward walk in the park. (I personally lost all sense of modesty after laboring, delivering, and breastfeeding in front of about 25 people.) If you’re more modest or your breasts are physically sensitive, just be aware that the nurse or technician will handle your breasts, and there might be some discomfort. For me, it was minimal.
It was also really helpful that the nurse told me women are frequently called back for a second screening after the first mammogram. She said, because they don’t know what’s normal for your breast tissue, they are often a little more cautious.
So, when I got that call back a couple of days later, I didn’t panic.
By that third visit, I felt like a pro. No deodorant, clothes in locker, book in hand.
They did an ultrasound on one of my breasts to check a spot, and they gave me the all-clear in about five minutes. Nothing beats a quick result!
Insurance providers will vary on coverage, of course, but I ended up only having to pay $20. Just one more thing to be thankful for after that last visit!
All in all, it’s best for you and your doctor to be informed and prepared. So, if you’re facing your first mammogram in the next few years, don’t fret, don’t worry about an initial call back, and don’t be pregnant.