Mammogram-musings and things about which I am not an expert

Mammogram MachineI had my first mammogram when I was in my early 20s.

I’d felt something, and a doctor confirmed I wasn’t imagining it, and then after considerable poking and prodding and squishing, a full, surgical biopsy confirmed what I’d found was a big lump of nothing really to worry about.

I didn’t have another mammogram until my 40s, and it actually took a lot of pluck for me to return.

… And that’s coming from a person who’s done stuff scary enough to make her tummy turn to Jell-O. I rode the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. I do a live radio show every week (worrying each time that I’ll bump my knee or something and unwittingly unleash a torrent of profanity worthy of a truck driver). I’ve taught a fifteen year-old boy to drive on the freeway. I’ve hailed a cab in Buenos Aires and made it to my destination even though I was pretty sure the driver couldn’t understand my crappy Spanish.

I picked up a snake once, thinking it was a stick.

These were all considerably less scary than getting a mammogram. At least the way those things used to go down. As I remember it, the radiologist put my boob on a little platform and turned on an automated boob squisher that kept slowly squishing past the point I thought I could be squished while she exited the room. Maybe it was to go take the picture from a safe distance, but I didn’t know. Maybe she had to take a call. Maybe her shift had ended.

For a heartbeat I wondered what would happen if the squisher didn’t stop squishing. Things were getting pretty uncomfortable and the thing was still going, and the only person who knew for sure that it would automatically stop squishing seemed to have taken a powder.

But it stopped, and there were a series of clicks, and with a whir, the torture device relinquished its grip on my goods.

“Okay, let’s get the other one,” the radiologist said as she emerged from wherever it was she’d gone.

“You’ve got some pretty lumpy tissue here,” she said positioning my other breast on the platform. Yeah, well, it was probably going to be somewhat less lumpy after being squished by her ginormous boob clamp, thank you very much.

It was interesting to get a read on what my boobs felt like, from the standpoint of someone who probably has a good deal of comparison material. I’d always heard the terms “perky” or “droopy” to describe breasts. But I guess this was a different kind of assessment. I never thought about the relative lumpiness of one breast relative to another, or where a pair might fall on a spectrum, say, from old, clumpy sofa cushion, to a wad of papier-mâché.

Given that I have a pair of my own, I guess it’s kind of surprising that I’m not much of an expert on breasts. Which I suppose is my way of admitting I have had my hands on very few natural breasts other than my own.

I specify “natural” because I’ve been asked more than once to weigh in on whether a girlfriend’s enhanced pair could pass for the ones God doles out. Somehow, this never seems strange or awkward at the time. Just one of those things girlfriends do, like braid each other’s hair. Or strip down to their undies for pillow fights. It must not occur to any of these friends that I am not, in fact an expert in boob palpation, nor does it occur to me to point this out.

And for the record, ladies, if natural was what you were going for, I’m sorry to break it to you. While they may be fabulous, they do not in any way give even the remotest impression of saggy, half-filled water balloons, which is my particular frame of reference.

And that’s perfectly okay. I would be very disappointed if any friend of mine actually paid someone to affix a pair of water balloons of any size to her chest anyway.

In any case, after that initial scare in my 20s, I’d like to say I’ve been diligent in doing my self-exams on a regular basis. It wouldn’t be completely true, but I’d like to say it.

I have, however, since turning 40, returned regularly to the land of the mammogram. While it still sucks, it’s certainly not the same kind of torture it was back then. The radiologist stays in the same room, manually cranking down on the vice grip until things are flatter than I think they were ever meant to be, even though at this point whatever I was endowed with in my 20s has shrunken considerably and relocated slightly south.

But I’m still told by these same people that they’re rather lumpy, and only just recently someone observed that the right is apparently slightly larger than the left.

Neither fact is apparently anything to worry about.


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Photo by: themozhi’s pixel displays



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  1. The mammogram place I go to will send me a letter after each squish to inform me that I have \’dense\’ breast tissue. Let me assure you I do NOT have dense tissue, I don\’t have much tissue at all, and I\’m convinced they are just CYAing themselves in telling ALL their patients they could still be at risk for breast cancer. What a crock. I\’ve thought about going to a new place but this world take effort and be a longer drive.

  2. I will be 40 next year and have been thinking about getting my first mammogram! Eeeee. It freaks me out, but I know I\’ll be diligent in gettin\’ them done. This post was really insightful and I loved hearing about your experience! I\’m glad your lump was nothing to worry about. That would be freaky.

  3. Good for you for getting mammograms regularly. I forget the age where you\’re \”supposed\” to start getting them, but I\’m not exactly looking forward to it. And I think it\’s soon for me. Also, you once picked up a snake thinking it was a stick?! GOOD LAWD.