I had my first mammogram recently. It wasn’t as bad as everyone said it would be. I was kind of relieved. Yeah they squished my breasts mechanically, but the technician was nice, and although it was a little uncomfortable, it wasn’t painful. She warmed the equipment up with a heating pad while I got gowned. She handled my body as if I were livestock she really hated to send to the slaughter, but that’s what the 4H program dictated. She was gentle and firm.
A week or so later, I got notice that they wanted me to come in for a second mammogram, but not at their clinic. They wanted me to go to the University Breast Center and have digital mammography. Now the only digital exam I have had done (that I recall) is one they like to call the “digital rectal exam”, which is one they like to spring on a person who is already in the stirrups, and at no particularly discernible interval. It’s like playing nasty Russian Roulette every time. This had to be better than that.
Anyway… Who wouldn’t want to go to somewhere called the Breast Center? It sounds round and soft and pleasant, doesn’t it? Warm and homey. Peaches and Creamy, friendly and nice. Aside from the slightly unnerving fact that they didn’t like my first mammogram, I wasn’t dreading this visit too much. I should have been. It was way worse than the first, except that they gave me a clean bill of breastly health when it was all over.
The Breast Center was not warm, it was freezing cold. They take you back, get you gowned in a semi-private waiting/changing area and have you sit in that area until they’re ready for you. Now I was cold and half-naked. That sucked. They have hot-chocolate packages and hot water to make yourself cocoa, but you can’t bring it back with you under any circumstances. I know. I tried. The nurse hissed at me and said she could get me another gown, if I was cold. And hell yeah, I was cold. Remember, people I keep my house at 65 in the winter. I can handle a chill. This was COLD. My goosebump and nipple erector muscles were getting tired.
The machinery they used to do the mammogram is similar, but different in three ways. First and most importantly, it was not warmed by a heating pad by a nice nurse/technician. Secondly, it is digital and therefore the nurse/tech person can see immediately if the pictures are good. Thirdly, whereas the first set of mammograms I had done merely squished my breasts to the thickness of a decent pancake, this place seemed to have the machine set on ‘crepe’.
It wasn’t even the squishing that hurt the most. It was her driving my ribcage into the corner of the machine so as to get a better shot. The feeling was a lot like what I get when they give me an exray at the dentist. That’s usually the worst part of the exam. Seems like I must have a very small jaw, because the corners of that little cardboard thing always dig into the tender area under my tongue even after the hygienist does that worthless little bending-of-the-corners maneuver.
It hurt, it was cold, and the nurse had none of the nice 4H attitude. She was all business, angry even. The nerve of me, having breasts and bringing them into her cold and sterile breast center.