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I Just Had My First Mammogram, Here’s What To Expect

I Just Had My First Mammogram, Here’s What To Expect

My relationship with my breasts is complicated. At times in my life I have loved them (age 15-30), at times I’ve hated them (age 9-14), and at still other times I have loved and hated them at the same time (age 30-40). Recently my boobs have accomplished some pretty amazing things, for which my children are very grateful, but sadly these feats have taken a toll. As I’m not willing to consider elective surgery, it seems we’re stuck with each other for better or worse.

The way I look at it, my boobs have done their time. They’ve served their biological purpose admirably and now it’s my job to reward them by doing my best to make sure they remain “supported” and taken care of in their retirement.

Some German doctor first came up with the idea more than a century ago and while the process has supposedly improved over that time, I’m hard pressed to see how.

Last year I turned 40 and that meant it was time for me to have my first mammogram. Not something I was looking forward to but not something I was particularly dreading either. After two kids I am un-phased by most medical procedures. What would have mortified me at 30 doesn’t even register as embarrassing today.

To be honest, I was more scared of what the results might be. I had taken a Risk Assessment and it wasn’t much higher than average but I have aunts on my mother’s side of the family who developed breast cancer and the “C” word is very scary. So scary that I put it off by almost a year, which is stupid, I know. By the time I got around to actually scheduling the mammogram I was almost 41.


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mammogram
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Don’t let this photo fool you! There is no smiling during a mammogram. Wincing, yes, and maybe some grimacing, but no smiling.

I finally put on my big girl panties and scheduled the appointment. After doing some research into my options, I elected to get a 3D Mammogram which is offered at both Huntsville Hospital and Outpatient Diagnostic Center. While it can cost slightly more depending on your insurance (up to $60 extra), it appealed to me because of the lower “call-back” rate compared to 2D mammograms as well as a higher percentage of cancer detection in younger women.

What Happens During a Mammogram

A mammogram is an x-ray exam of your breast. In order to get an image of this particular body part they need to flatten your breast as much as possible in between two glass plates. This feels EXACTLY as comfortable and appealing as it sounds. Some German doctor first came up with the idea more than a century ago and while the process has supposedly improved over that time, I’m hard pressed to see how.

The 3D mammograms do last about 10 seconds longer than the 2D which feels like an eternity already but I just kept thinking about how the tech said I would be less likely to have to come back for a “call-back” and figured it was probably worth it.


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What it Feels Like to Get a Mammogram

That's about right.
That’s about right.

I’m trying to think how to explain this accurately but honestly, the picture above pretty much says it all. Getting a mammogram is uncomfortable – to an extreme – and unpleasant and for about a day afterward I felt like someone had punched me in the boobs. There are worse things but I’m not going to get overly excited about my next exam.

Why It’s Worth Getting One Anyway

That said, I absolutely 100% WILL NOT be putting off my next exam. Worrying over what my possible results might be was so much worse than the 15-20 minute exam and getting results back that say that everything looks normal is PRICELESS.

The moral of this story, don’t be a Jennifer. Don’t delay something that could save your life just because it might will be a little uncomfortable. Schedule that mammogram and take care of your boobs. They’ve worked hard and deserve it!

mammogram results
A belated birthday present and a HUGE relief.

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View Comments (7)
  • Jennifer, I was surprised to see your article first thing this morning because I just turned 40 and had my first mammogram yesterday! I went to Outpatient Diagnostic Center, and was surprised that I experienced absolutely no discomfort and I’m not sore today. I’d assumed it would hurt, especially considering my “generous” cup size. I’m sure there are many factors involved– like breast density, time of the month, caffeine intake, etc. Now, I must await the results. I’m probably a candidate for a callback due to fibrocystic changes, but otherwise my risk factors are low. Anyway– great article. You’re right: everyone should schedule their exam sooner, not later. My best friend is battling serious breast cancer. It is truly a terrible thing. Thank you.

    • Congrats! It’s such a nice feeling to have it over with. I certainly hope I don’t scare anyone off with this article. My mammogram didn’t hurt it was just really uncomfortable. That said, I do think if I had scheduled at a better time of month it would have helped.

      So true that everyone needs to get it done regardless and soooo worth the small hassle.

  • Had to laugh…”hard-pressed to see how!”
    But in all seriousness, thank you for sharing your experience. These really are life-saving screening procedures and while it isn’t FUN, it really isn’t THAT bad either. Breast Cancer is becoming more and more treatable if it is caught early, but that only happens if we all do our proper screening. That means self-exams for women under forty, too.

    • It was hard not to be punny 🙂 Seriously though, thanks for reading and yes, while it isn’t exactly a fun experience it is super necessary and just like the dentist, you feel so grown up when you’re done.

  • Just have my first mammogram and still waiting for the result.Hope all is well?.Yup early detection much better.

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