Man or Woman: Breast Cancer Could Happen To You

invasive_lobular_carcinoma[2]_tcm8-79021  You have to appreciate the mind set. It couldn’t happen to me…………  I could not be one of those statistics. There was no question of me suffering breast cancer. So when I was sent an appointment for a mammogram, I was more concerned about the convenience of the time slot; the embarrassment factor of getting my tits out and the pain and indignity of the process. At no time did I consider what a remarkable machine has been developed and what skilled people interpret the results. It never occurred to me that this could be a significant event.

When you have a mammogram, a skilled technologist positions and compresses your breast between two clear plates. The plates are attached to a highly specialized camera, which takes two x-rays of the breast from two directions. Then the technologist repeats the technique on the opposite breast. For some women, more than two pictures may be needed to include as much tissue as possible.

Mammography can be painful for some women, but for most it is just mildly uncomfortable, and the sensation lasts for just a few seconds. Compressing the breast is necessary to flatten and reduce the thickness of the breast. The x-ray beam should penetrate as few layers of overlapping tissues as possible. From start to finish, the entire procedure takes about 20 minutes. A diagnostic mammogram generally takes more time than a screening mammogram because it takes more pictures from more angles.  mammogram

So, having rearranged the date and time to one that suited me, I was the last appointment in the mobile breast screening unit on 22 March. I was greeted with a smile and made to feel as comfortable as possible before the screening began. While the unit was effectively a modified caravan in a health centre car park, the female radiographers could not have been more courteous or professional.

This is not a dignified process. It is uncomfortable. However, it is worth swallowing your pride, put aside your embarrassment and shame, because, you see, those suffering from breast cancer are not statistics. It could, and did, happen to me: in fact, whether you are a man or a woman, it could even happen to you.

Valerie Penny

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