Last week I finally had a mammogram. The grim part of me felt I entered the world of Old People Tests. The bright side of me felt this was so cool sophisticated technology can peer at the inner workings of my boobs. I was a little worried about radiation exposure- supposedly for every mammogram a woman receives, her risk of breast cancer ticks up 1%. But I figured one time wouldn’t kill me.
As I sat in the waiting room I thought of Maryam Mirzakhani, the only woman ever to win the most prestigious honor in mathematics, the Fields Medal. She recently died of breast cancer at the age of 40. Why would god give a woman such an incredible gift only to take her from the world prematurely? Not only that, but make her suffer in the process? God, you’re weird. I nearly said it out loud.
Then they called me in.
The mammography tech was, unlike me, ample bossomed which somehow seemed apropos. She was also nearly a foot shorter than me. She asked cheerfully had I ever had a mammogram before? Nope. Did I know what one entailed? Uh… not really. I know big machines are involved.
She had me undress waist up in a dressing room and cover myself with a blue gown. I walked into the exam room and she announced she had to put these little stickers with metal dots on my… ugh… I opened my gown and let her have at it. She asked was there a history of breast cancer in my family?
Yes, my mother.
Yes, my aunt. She recently died from it.
Ah… she said, filling out forms.
Then she explained I would have to place each breast on a platform while images were obtained. I looked at that platform, looked down at my now-pastied boobs, and regarded her skeptically.
I don’t have much breast for the platform. This is true; my breasts are so small they may as well not exist.
Oh I’ll manage something! She was laughing in a good natured way. I thought of poor Maryam, all the boob examinations she must have endured.
Onto the platform the right one went. The tech twisted and crammed, eventually a plexiglas compressor bore down, trash compactor style. EEEEEeeeejjjjjj. That was the sound of the x-ray. EEEEEeeeejjjjjj. Then the left. EEEEEeeeejjjjjj.
It was definitely uncomfortable, not necessarily painful. I was more concerned about my back potentially spasming (my back likes to spasm) than the state of my breasts- she kept twisting my arms to and fro and grabbing my bare shoulder blades; the muscles on my shoulder blades are the most spasm-prone.
Then it was over! The whole ordeal was less than fifteen minutes. So if any of you ladies are avoiding a mammogram, please don’t. It’s not so bad, it’s not embarrassing, and if you have a history of breast cancer in the family the risk of minute radiation exposure is dwarfed by the worser fate.