Time for a Mammogram: Follow-up Exam Generates Anxiety

Time for a Mammogram: Follow-up Exam Generates Anxiety

Breast Cancer

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"There is an area of interest on your last mammogram that warrants a closer follow-up," said the note I received from the imaging center. "A surgical consultation was advised. We recommend you have your next imaging study in June."

Had six months passed since I had my mammogram in December? I remember going for the exam and hearing the radiologist say there was a benign area on my left breast. I was nervous back then. As the date drew closer for my second round, I grew anxious.

"What if there is something wrong with my left breast?" I thought as I entered the exam room. In a moment—my life and possibly my body—would be forever changed.

What Is Your Risk Of Breast Cancer?

"We'll be with you in a minute," said the receptionist. As I sat in the waiting area, I read through a Women and Breast Health brochure. There was a quiz to assess "your risk of breast cancer." According to the research, "The more 'yes' answers you have, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer." Hmm, hmm, hmm, let's see where I rank:

* Yes – I am a woman.
* Yes – I am more than 50 years of age.
* No – I have had breast cancer or a precancerous condition.
* No – I have a family history of breast cancer.
* No – I began my periods before age 12 or reached menopause after age 55.
* No – I never had a child or had my first child after age 30.
* No – I weigh 40% more than my ideal weight.
* No – I drink alcohol. (OK, this one is a yes/no as I do drink some wine.)
* No – More than 30% of my daily calories come from fat.**
* No – I am using or have used hormone replacement therapy.
** Note: Rule for dietary factors not firmly established.

Yeah! Only two "yes" answers out of 10—that's great! While this quiz does not ensure that I will not get breast cancer, I am grateful to know that my risk factors are lower.

Time for My Mammogram

I put on the gown with the opening in the front. (The new gowns are so short that they almost look like midriff tops.)

"We're just checking the left side today," said the nice technician, as she removed my left breast from the gown and flattened it between the plastic clamps. "Just need to get this left side really down pat," she said, as she continued to squish my teeny-tiny left breast into the imaging machine. "We need to do three views," said the technician. Click, I held my breath. Click, I held my breath again. Click, I held my breath for the third and final time.

I closed my eyes and meditated as I sat in the dressing room in my midriff gown until the radiologist reviewed my slides. Will it be a happy day or a sad day, I wondered as I waited.

"It's all good," said the nice technician. "Everything is OK with your left breast."

Ooh, ah! Ooh, ah! I jumped out of my chair, put my bra and T-shirt back on, and scurried out the door. It was a very, very, very happy day. I celebrated every moment of the day. (Note to self: I need to enjoy every moment more often during my life after 50, not just when I get good health news.)

This week, I was upset to learn that TV newscaster Joan Lunden had been diagnosed with breast cancer following her routine mammogram. It's not easy hearing such news. I'm sending good wishes her way and hope that she will have a full recovery because the cancer was discovered early.

So dear boomer girls, have you had your annual mammogram this year? Don't delay. Schedule it today. As Joan Lunden said in her recent blog post, "Protect your health."

This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.

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