A few weeks ago, I was lying in bed, and I found a new lump in my right breast. It was somewhat large, kind of hard, and a little bit tender to the touch. I hadn’t noticed it before and didn’t think much of it. I mentioned it to my husband in passing that evening, and he encouraged me to call my Primary Care Provider and have him check it out.
I called the next day. My PCP at the time was reassigned, but I got in with his Nurse Practitioner the next day. They asked a bunch of questions about my cycle dates and how regularly I do at-home breast exams. Because I chose to breastfeed, I’m pretty familiar with all my lumps and bumps, but this one felt very new.
After the nurse examined me, she agreed that she felt a mass and decided to send me to the breast health clinic for a mammogram and an ultrasound to be on the safe side. I’m 30 years old, so I just met the cutoff for needing both a mammogram and an ultrasound for my clinic. This is my experience with my first mammogram. Of course, other hospitals/clinics may do things differently, but I wished I had a good resource of what to expect, so I thought I’d share mine. (This is my personal experience and will not be the same for everyone.)
No one will tell you, “You’ll be just fine,” but they’ll be reassuring.
In my original appointment, the Nurse Practitioner told me that she had a “low clinical level of concern,” but that we should check it out. She was reassuring that this would be just a new lump and bump and that it was likely everything would be okay, but she never flat out said so.
From the very first step, they told me that I would receive information on the day of the mammogram–Either at the end of the appointment or via a phone call by the end of the day. For me, it was helpful to know that I wouldn’t be waiting for weeks for the results of my first mammogram.
Everyone is professional and cares.
The nurses and staff at the breast clinic all spoke in reassuring voices, looked me in the eye, and were very reassuring. I broke into tears during the family history portion of the exam, before the mammogram. The nurse offered words of comfort and assured me that I was not the only person to have a few tears in the room.
The nurse handling the machine was very gentle and explained everything about my first mammogram before doing so. She was clear in her instructions. She gave me time to take a breath if I needed it before changing the machine’s angles.
For the ultrasound portion, another nurse took me to a room, and calmly took a look around in the suspect area. She then consulted the doctor on staff. He came into the room after to assure me that he had looked at my first mammogram scans and the ultrasound results, and everything looked just fine. “We will see you at 40, unless, of course, you notice something new before then. Keep up with your self-exams.”
The Mammogram Itself
I have older sisters, so I had heard about getting a mammogram before. That said, my first mammogram experience was a little bit different than theirs. I have larger breasts, so I wasn’t sure if that would be more or less painful than having smaller ones. Speaking from my personal experience, it was what I would call “uncomfortable,” but not at all painful.
The nurse gave clear instructions on where to stand, how to angle my arms, and keep my chin out of the frame. She took two images for each breast. Two plastic planes squished me down, and then the computer took an image. Each image lasted about 10 seconds, and the pain was minimal.
Tips For Preparing for a Mammogram
Wear a separate top and bottom instead of a dress. I had to undress only from the waist up, so I was glad I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt instead of a sundress on that hot summer day.
Leave your favorite jewelry at home. They did provide lockers, but they asked me to leave all my possessions in the locker because they weren’t allowed in the exam room. I was a little nervous about leaving a necklace from my husband behind, so if you have a chance to leave in a safe spot at home, go that route.
They’ll tell you everything you need to know. Trust the process, and DO NOT do a lot of internet searches! Of course, that’s easier said than done. I didn’t want to have an overwhelming amount of information in my head before my first mammogram, but I did do some searching after I got my “all clear” result.
Take it easy. The night before the test, my husband and I did an at-home date together and just relaxed, hoping that everything would be ok, but we also talked about our fears. It helped both of us to talk and say things out loud to process our feelings.
Have you had a mammogram yet? Any tips I’m missing or things you’d like to share?