Yeah, you know, REALLY looking forward to my mammogram today. It’s in just a few hours and I simply don’t know what to wear, except not deodorant, per the instructions, because little flecks of white from one’s pits can mimic calcifications on the film, prompting re-shoots and unnecessary biopsies and altogether more breast smushing and poking than is strictly necessary.
Stinky, apprehensive and lacking in bacteria-killing antiperspirant is not a recipe for a great morning, for me or the guy next to me on the subway.
The most anyone hopes for on routine mammo day is to discover that they were exactly as they thought they were before they had those weird little sticky things that look like the male half of a snap stuck on their nipples and had the Oxford English Dictionary slammed down on their boobs: PERFECTLY HEALTHY. It’s not as if there’s a net gain or anything. You don’t come out ahead. I may have to buy myself something, like chocolate or a lipstick, to feel like something positive came out of it.
Like thousands of women, I’m one of those who has had multiple mammo scares. Aside from having breasts, I have no particular elevated risk, thank goodness. Nonetheless, they found a funky mass back in 2002 when I was about to undergo IVF. Yucky needle biopsy–sounded like a staple gun–followed by a wire-guided mammogram and surgery to confirm that it was, in fact, nothing. Since then, I’ve had a calcification, which, happily and after another biopsy–this time with my boob hanging through a hole in a table–was determined to be nothing, either. Fan-f&*%g-tastic.
I’m the kind of gal that the new mammography guidelines were written for last year, the rationale for not getting routine mammos in your 40s being that the false positive rate is so high relative to the number of cancers found that it’s puts women through hell for no reason. (Those with risk factors should, of course, get them early and often). And I hear that.
But I’ve had enough friends my age or younger who have had breast cancer (one just started chemo last week) to wonder if maybe I should find a way to view these false positives as signs that people are on the job–like the Sloman Shield dude frantically calling on vacation because the cat set off the alarm. That’s kind of a good thing, right?
Kind of. I guess it depends how often it happens and what the crime rate in your neighborhood is.
What do you Formerlies think about all this? Would you rather have the crap scared out of you a few times with a false positive and maybe even surgery for an abnormality which in all likelihood will turn out to be nothing? Or would you (assuming you’re not in the high-risk category) rather roll the dice that you’d be OK with fewer mammograms?
Wish me and my boobs luck today.