Back in February 2020 (or pre-lockdown as we call it now) I received a letter from my GP inviting me to attend a breast screening (aka, a mammogram). I was 47, not 50, and felt a little aggrieved that I was being given an early call up. Turns out I was randomly chosen as part of The AgeX trial to see if breast screening in the under 50s and over 70s is beneficial.
Anyway, lockdown happened and it was cancelled. Until a letter arrived at the start of August, inviting me to attend in two weeks’ time. Although wavering, I decided that I WOULD go along, if only to tell friends of a similar age to me what it is like. I’ve never had any issues with my breasts (or boulders as I unflatteringly refer to them … some people are over-blessed, and I am one of them). I check regularly as we’re all encouraged to. No issues whatsoever.
So, on a cold morning in mid-August I drove to our local mobile screening unit, masked up, and headed inside. After confirming who I was, I was taken through to the scanning room and asked to remove all clothes from the waist upwards. This is that moment when you just need to say to yourself “don’t think, just do it!” It’s not natural … but it’s necessary! You then find yourself standing there, boobs out, hoping no one else is going to walk in. You might find yourself folding your clothes neater than you’ve ever done them before in order to pass the awkwardness until the machine is ready for you … and then the fun starts!
The mammogram machine is stronger than it looks, put it like that. The radiographer contorts you into various positions in order that your whole breast can fit on a plate – and then the top plate comes down, and then goes down a little bit further, and sometimes a little bit more again. Don’t swear, it’s not lady-like – just curse silently. It’s over in no time at all … the machine lights up and makes a churning noise, and then the beautiful release of that top plate occurs. Unfortunately, the machine then tilts its head, and wants to take another picture of the same breast. More interesting poses, more pinching, churning, releasing … arrgghh! And that’s the left breast done! Takes just a moment in time.
Repeat for the right breast. However, in my case Righty seemed to be less photogenic. In total four photos were taken, with a back-up radiographer called to assist. I did ask “what’s the problem?” to which I was told it was to make sure the whole [substantial] breast was in the image to stop me being recalled to have it done again. A seed of doubt was planted there and then … I rarely believe what I’m told, as you’ll come to learn … but I wasn’t getting any further information from them so threw my clothes on and left as quickly as I could.
Mammogram 1 over with. Next one in a few years’ time. Well, it was actually 11 days. But that’s another story entirely …