They say practice what you preach. There is no better advice except when what you preach may hurt a bit, or at least you think it will.
I am a family doctor. As a mother, I have had my fair share of exams. Physical exams, Pap smears, blood work, even two C-sections. Now at 40-years old, it was time for my first mammogram.
Don’t get me wrong. I know the benefit of mammograms. With more than 220,000 Americans diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 alone, breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in women and the second most common cause of death. Mammograms are the most cost-effective and efficient way to detect breast cancer. The American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends for annual screening starting at age 40 while the United States Preventive Screening Task Force advises for mammograms every other year starting at 50 years old. While controversy exists about how often preventive screening should occur, the fact remains that mammograms save lives.
I dare you to find a woman who looks forward to them, though. The idea of squishing your boobs between two plastic plates is not all that appealing. It sounds quite painful, actually, especially if you have small breasts like I do. Without the extra cup size, what breast tissue is there to even put into the machine?
Truth be told, a woman has more anxiety about what the results could mean than about discomfort. If she has a family history for breast cancer, is this the time she finds out she have it? Even if she doesn’t have a genetic predisposition, most women are diagnosed without having a family history. Will she join the ranks of the one in eight women who get invasive breast cancer in their lifetime? It can be an anxiety provoking experience.
As I entered the room on my big day, these thoughts ran through my mind. The machine looked ominous but the technologist greeted me with a friendly smile. Apparently, she was used to women having some apprehension about the exam. She was gentle and explained everything step by step. We even paused to make a joke about how breastfeeding each of my children for 18 months had prepared me for a good squeeze.
You know what? It was not so bad!
My mammogram was in no way painful and it gave me peace of mind to know I had been properly screened. Preventive medicine and early detection make a difference and I was setting an example for my family, my friends, and my patients. I was soon sharing the good word with my patients and encouraging them to get screened.
Yes, I practice what I preach and I am proud of it. Let’s see how things go when I turn 50 and I am due for my first colonoscopy.
TapGenes TakeAway: Getting your first mammogram can provoke anxiety, even for your doctor. This doctor shares her mammogram experience and shows you there is nothing to fear.
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