Mammograms – Why?

I had a mammogram today and it raised questions in my mind. Not about whether mammograms are a good thing, despite the new study in the British Medical Journal that said they don’t really help. My mother had breast cancer and a mastectomy. She survived. A dear friend had a lumpectomy. (Digression: By accident, it almost became a complete boobectomy. Her breast survived.)

When my doctor told me to schedule the test, I  admitted to him that I don’t do the breast self-exam thing every month. I told him I couldn’t feel anything out of the ordinary, not even after another doctor gave me the fake boob with the different sized lumps to practice on. “My breasts are weird and lumpy,” I told him. “All women’s breasts are weird and lumpy,” he replied. Good to know. And, yes, there have been plenty of volunteers who’ve offered to help. So don’t even go there.

I dutifully scheduled the test, especially since I think that now, thanks to the ACA, insurance has to pay for the whole thing. (Further digression: The thing that caused the most resistance to the ACA, in my opinion, was letting its opponents get away with calling it “Obamacare.” That and not emphasizing that it wasn’t health care reform, which scares people. It was insurance reform, which only scares insurance companies.)

(I think I was working up to making a point somewhere. What was it? Oh, yeah, mammograms. Questions. That was it.) My questions were not about the actual test, but about the process.

When I entered the elaborate medical photo booth, the tech asked me, as usual, to remove my clothing above the waist and put on a cloth gown with the opening in the front. She told me to open the door a bit when I was ready.

Leave me alone with nothing to read and I start thinking.

I said to myself, “Self, why does she want me to put on that extremely fashionable gown when she’s going to see my weird, lumpy breasts anyway?”

When I discussed this with my husband later, he said that some people are modest.

“About what?” I asked. “They know the tech is going to see their boobs.”

I thought some more. “When the mammogrammers snap the pics, the techs ask you to uncover one breast at a time. Why is that? Are modest people okay with exposing one boob to a stranger, but not two at once? Plus, the tech touches them. If they’re going to be modest, isn’t that the bigger issue?”

I was on a roll. “And that whole leaving the room while I change is silly. They could save time – and laundry bills for the gowns – if they just said, ‘Strip to the waist and stick ’em in the machine.’

“They should reserve that delicate sensibility crap for first-timers. Everyone else just wants to get it over with as quickly as possible. Am I right?”

My husband said he didn’t know, which is probably true, since he’s never had a mammogram.

So, what’s the take-away here?

When I have a mammogram, I already know that someone will see and touch my breasts. And I’m okay with that.

But if I see my pictures on the Internet, I’ll really be pissed.


The mammogram I was so flippant about revealed a cyst, which has gotten larger. Tuesday I go for a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound. Even more people will see my breasts, and I’m still OK with that.

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