Thursday, 3 May 2012

This One's For The Girls.

When I read the letter I didn't want to go. It was  my appointment for a routine mammogram.
 I had my first one three years ago and it wasn't the nicest of experiences. I had watched a scan being performed on television's "This Morning" so I knew what to expect, that it would be a bit uncomfortable but wouldn't last for long. I had spoken on the phone to a lovely woman who was the chief radiographer and she assured me that the port I have inserted under my skin at the top of my chest would not cause me a problem and they would be very careful not to dislodge it.
 I have this port to enable me to have antibiotics quickly and efficiently if I have a chest infection.
 I entered the building in town and was greeted by two lovely receptionists who immediately put me at ease and directed me to the waiting room. I didn't see another soul, the place seemed deserted. The mammographer called me in and asked me usual routine questions about breast pain or lumps and bumps. She asked if I had any implants so I told her about my port and my telephone conversation. She put her hand up to stop me and said she was the senior person in charge and it was irrelevant whether I had a port or not, unfortunately I didn't feel that way, I was worried it would move when my breast was compressed for the x ray. The conversation ended and from that moment all she did was give me instructions and manoeuvre me into place, no kind words of reassurance, no asking if I was okay. Standing with your top off does make you feel a bit uneasy especially if your being spoken to in that way. Mammogram over and I went home.

 I wish I had complained, but I didn't, hence three years later when my appointment came through I was very apprehensive about going but as I always usually do as I'm told and I do think it's very important to be screened, I plucked up courage and went.

The bus took so long to get into town and as I hate being late I started stressing. I then went to the wrong street in town and had to rush uphill to the right one. The information on the leaflet that comes with your appointment informs you not to use any spray deodorant as this can interfere with the x-ray, only roll-on deodorant can be used. I didn't have any roll- on so I'm stressing and rushing with no deodorant on which made me stress more. A good lesson in reading leaflets when you receive them and not on the morning of appointment.
I was greeted again by two smiling receptionists ( I wonder if they were the same ones) and directed to the waiting room, again  never saw a soul. Do lots of ladies not turn up for these appointments? Or was I lucky and it was a quiet day?

I was called in immediately by Gillian the mammographer and asked the routine questions. I told her about my port and she listened and showed me the mammogram from three years ago and pointed out my port. Strange to think it's been there for more than eighteen years. Gillian explained to me what would happen and if at any time I felt discomfort to make her aware and she would stop. I had slight discomfort when my breast was compressed but it was all over so quickly that I could bear it. I waited to find out if the mammogram had captured all the images that were needed and I was free to go.

Two completely different experiences, the procedures were identical, the difference was in the attitude of the person carrying it out. Gillian the second mammographer was simply, a lovely person, so caring and understanding. I told her of my first experience and she was shocked and apologised even although it had nothing to do with her care.
Breast screening is so important and we are so lucky to be called every three years to have this done and possibly spot very earlier signs of something abnormal going on and have it treated. I would urge every woman to keep their appointment but if you have an experience similar to my first one then do something about it, don't be like me and keep quiet. I'm sure my first experience is not the norm and my recent appointment has shown me that there is no need to be apprehensive and it can be made a more pleasant experience by having the right person perform it.

Have you had a mammogram? What was your experience like? Or, are you apprehensive about going for the first time? Please share your thoughts with me and others.

 I'm so surprised at comments left saying that in some countries like America and Australia women are being screened every year that I thought I would add a postscript.

In the UK women are called for free screening every three years from the age of fifty until seventy. Sometimes that means you are fifty one or nearly fifty two before you are called as it done on a rolling basis and depends where on the list your GP practice is. From this year they hope to have extended the age range from age forty seven until seventy three but it will still be every three years.

The American Cancer Society have advised that women should be screened every year  from age forty. Australia seems to vary but from age forty some parts of Australia screen  are every year and some every two years.
Auckland, New Zealand screens women over forty every two years.

Jersey recalls women every two years.

There is such a discrepancy in the recall time time that it seems more important to me now for women in the UK to keep checking their breasts and  visit their GP the minute they detect any differences. Three years seem too long to wait for another screening.


25 comments:

  1. Oh, Cassam, you are so right. THe tone of voice and the attitude of the person makes all the difference in the world. How sad that someone in that position would become so jaded they lose sight of the people they are supposed to be helping. Glad this time you had a good experience. I'm afraid of a lot of things, but this isn't one of them. I have one every year.

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  2. Hi Karen in the UK the NHS recalls women over the age of fifty every three years for a routine test. I think knowledge is power which is why I wanted people to be aware if they are not treated as they should be to stand up and say.

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  3. I've had them every year since I turned 40 and always the people have been kind and reassuring, although the procedure was extremely uncomfortable.  The last one I had, last year, is using a digital technology which made the exam WAY shorter than the others and it was my best experience yet.

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  4. I have had mammograms . . . I go every year, although I confess that I am one year overdue now.    There's always been a little discomfort, but I think that's to be expected when some machine is squishing your boobs :)    But the technician makes the difference, as you've experienced!   Hope your next experience is like your last one!

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  5. I just can't understand people who dismiss your concerns - they maybe unimportant to her,  but not to you. I'm in a job where I need to make sure people are happy, and it would never occur to me to disregard their fears.

    I'm glad your second experience was better.

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  6. Anne Stormont3 May 2012 at 21:04

    I've just had my second one done. It's done in a big portscabin in the co-op car park up here. The radiographers - there's two of them - who come from the mainland and stay for a month - could not have been nicer. It makes such a difference.

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  7. Hi Anne, yes it's amazing the difference being nice makes.

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  8. Maybe she was having a bad day,but just goes to show I still remembered it in detail three years later. I wouldn't put up with treatment like that now.

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  9. It seems to be every year in USA, in the Uk the test is done every three years probably because it's free with the NHS. Thanks for reading,Jlimburg

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  10. Hi Jo Jo . In the Uk you are not called for a scan until you are fifty and recalled every three years until I think you reach seventy and then you only have one if you request it.Although I'm sure if we went private and paid we could have it more often.The digital one sounds good I don't know if we have that or not.

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  11. Lisa_GrandmasBriefs4 May 2012 at 00:00

    I've only had one...but should really have had more than that by now. I've not refrained out of fear, just procrastination (plus, I'm not yet even 50). To be honest, it wasn't a horrible experience for me. The tech was kind as could be and the machine was uncomfortable but not painful. I had expected far worse from the various reports. It's so important that it's too bad many women are frightened away.

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  12. Hi Lisa. In the UK we are not called for one until our fiftieth year then every three years. People in America seem to have one every year maybe it has to do with the different medical systems we have in different countries as we have the NHS and not a medical insurance system I'm curious now as to why we're not re called every year. Will have to look into it.

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  13. Such a shame that you had that negative experience Anne, because the mammograms are so important.  Two of mine have shown the very results that we all dread. The first was really early on and all would have been OK if one, supposedly benign lump, hadn't been left behind.  It wasn't until the next 3 year check that it was discovered that that 'benign' lump I was ignoring was not benign at all!!  So even though they are uncomfortable sometimes,  particularly for you with the fear of dislodging your port, they are crucial. Thank you for a lovely 'girls' sharing post! xx

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  14. Oh Sue how awful, I hope everything is okay now. I have found out through comments that some countries test every year, that may have hepled you with the second lump. I'm going to put a postscript up about different test timings Thanks for that with us all.

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  15. Misha Gericke4 May 2012 at 17:34

    I've never been for screening, since it's a bit expensive where I live, but I keep constant track of the state of my breasts, since breast cancer is in my family. 

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  16. Hi Misha, I' m wondering where you're from that the screening is expensive,I would image it would be covered by health insurance in countries where it is not free. I don't know how old you are but if or when you are fifty or older I urge you to have the test done it can pick up changes you can't see or feel. Of course it's also so important to do what you are doing and check your breasts regularly.

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  17. Rosalind Adam5 May 2012 at 15:27

    Our routine mammogram checks are carried out in a huge mobile lorry. I too have never seen anyone else there. I've always assumed that it's because they're so quick and efficient. 

    When I had my second mammogram I got a recall. This meant I had to go to the hospital. I was taken in and out for mammogram after mammogram on just one breast. Mr A was sitting with my clothes in a metal basket looking more and more worried. Some couples were called into a room and this looked like the route to bad news.After about the 6th time a nurse came up to me and said, "You're free to go." and walked off. I was so grateful not to have to go into THAT room that I pulled on my clolthes and we almost ran to the car. When I next went to my GP he mentioned that the problem had been calciafied glands. It wouldn't have taken the nurse a minute to have said that to me.

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  18. I'm so sorry you had a negative experience, but I'm happy to hear it was better the second time!

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  19. That's awful Ros. The waiting and not knowing why. Surely these people who perform scans are trained in patient care and to give information to put women at their ease. As I said your experience depends on who you see and speak to on the day. I don't think we should just put up with any unsatisfactory care even a quick e mail to the head of department can make you feel you've done something . I'm so glad it was all okay for you, but scary.

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  20. Yes the first time wasn't great and she said she was the boss not a very good role model for the rest of the staff. I don't think she's there anymore. You have a while to wait for yours but don't let my first experience put you off the second woman was lovely.

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  21. Mammograms are such a hard thing to do under the best circumstances I'm sorry that it was made to feel uncomfortable for you. 

    I went for my baseline mammogram at 35, my second at 40 and then once per year since. This year was the first year I was called back for a second look I'm 53 but all was ok- thank goodness. 

    I always go to the same place so it's not unusual to see the same staff over and over which is a bit nicer as far as the level of personal service. 

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  22. I really wish they started screening earlier in the UK. I know of three women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in their early 40s and that's just in my circle of friends. Scary stuff.

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  23. Hi Jen, I'm glad everything was ok for you. It's strange in the USAyou're screened every year and over in the Uk it's every three years.

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  24. I' m just finding out how much more screening other countries do and how much earlier they start. The UkWebsites say that a lot of false positives are thrown up in women under fifty giving worry to people but surely all those other countries can't be wrong.

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  25. Your extensive article highlights the stress many women experience when scheduling a mammogram. I never fail to voice my opinion that the procedure is equilivent to aa procedure perfomred in an antiquated torture chamber. The colonoscopy rates in the same category, but for the preparatory stage and I admit it is an equal opportunity procedure.

    Mammograms are important, so why can't someone come up with a new, friendlier test?

    http://gail-baugniet.blogspot.com/2012/05/fast-five-author-interview-with-kate.html

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