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Get Your Mammogram, Ma'am

I don't know about you, but I am rather fond of my breasts. In fact, I would like to keep them, thank you very much. For my 50th birthday, I decided to give myself the gift of health and had a series of cancer screenings including a mammogram. Having a mammogram can be a little bit scary because the intent is to find out if you have breast cancer or not. However, knowing is better than not knowing. Keeping that in mind, knowing what will happen during the mammogram or breast cancer screening process is also extremely helpful.


I was referred by my primary care provider to an appropriate location to receive my mammogram. I arrived on-time, mask on, for my mammogram. I sat at the admission desk and filled out some paperwork for my provider, which included my insurance or payment information. Before I go further, I would like to mention there is assistance available if you feel like you can't afford a mammogram. The name varies in every state. In Nebraska, the program is called Every Woman Matters; in California, Every Woman Counts;  in Missouri, Show Me Healthy Women; and in Idaho, Women's Health Check. All programs are federally funded, and each state establishes its own program. If you need assistance finding a program, you can check the CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Screening Program page. 

I then waited in the lobby for a very short period of time. The radiology tech showed me to the room, where I disrobed from the waist up and put on a gown. Before the appointment, I was instructed to not wear deodorant that day, but I forgot. I had to wipe it off before the radiology tech returned. I waited at most five minutes, and the mammogram started.

The type of mammogram I received was from a 3D x-ray machine. Several pictures were taken from different angles. The machine was plastic, so it was not as painful as the older squish-and-twist metal machines. My head and body were adjusted with each picture, and all I had to do was listen and hold the pose. When it was over, I put my clothes back on. The radiology tech came back in the room and told me they were going to schedule me for an ultrasound. A mass was seen on my right breast close to the chest wall. She showed me the picture, and she told me not to be concerned. The radiologist had requested an ultrasound be scheduled in the next 10 days. My ultrasound was exactly 10 days later. 

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The Ultrasound

The ultrasound started much the same way as the mammogram. This time, a sonographer walked me to the ultrasound room. I disrobed, and I put on a paper gown. The sonographer had me lay down on a hospital bed. The room was dark so that the ultrasound results could be seen clearly. The sonographer prepped the area with gel. The gel was not cold. I stared at the ceiling and waited for the ultrasound to begin. 

The sonographer carefully went over the area several times. I watched her expression and the screen. I had an idea of what breast abnormalities looked like on radiologic exam from my years' experience in healthcare. I saw the mass before the sonographer even said anything. I told myself it could be nothing. Not to get worried. The sonographer left and told me to go ahead and get dressed. I barely had my clothes on when the radiologist came in the room. She told me they were going to schedule me for a breast biopsy. She explained the procedure, that they would take several needle biopsies, and then it would be over.

The Biopsy

The day of the biopsy, again, I had very little time in the waiting room and was taken back to a separate room where I was prepped by a sonographer. I was placed onto a hospital bed and wheeled into the procedure room. This time, the room was a little brighter. When I arrived, I met my Patient Navigator. She would guide me through the care process if I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Once again, the sonographer performed an ultrasound to be sure they had the right area. Since the mass was so close to the chest wall, they wanted to make sure they had the exact location. Before the ultrasound was over, the interventional radiologist came in to perform the biopsy. 

He made sure that I was prepped properly before the exam, and the Patient Navigator left the room. The sonographer remained. The interventional radiologist explained to me what would happen during the procedure. It was exactly what an acquaintance had told me would happen, so I was relieved to learn what she said was accurate. Her comments made me feel much more at ease. 

First the area was numbed with some local anesthetic. The interventional radiologist then made a small incision in my right breast, probably less than two inches. He took several needle biopsies of the area, probably four or five at least. I will say it really didn't hurt that much until about a week later. He also placed a biomarker where the mass was located, so it could be found easier in the future. After the biopsy was over, I got dressed. The Patient Navigator came back in the room and told me she would call me in a few days with results. I went home that day. On the way home, I stopped and bought myself lunch. All I had to do was wait to see if I had breast cancer or not. 

The Results

I had gone through this whole process by myself. No family member attended with me. It was just me. A close friend of mine at the time, though, knew about the process. He happened to be sitting next to me when I got the results. I had set up text alerts on my phone from my primary care provider to be notified of appointments, health reminders, and lab results. I received an alert I had new results. I read through the report and saw “negative for malignancy.” I had a benign tumor. The Patient Navigator called me within a few minutes of receiving the results. I was instructed to return for a mammogram the following year. My friend said, “Let’s celebrate!” And, we did.