Why Mammograms Make Me Angry

by holli on December 31, 2018

Please Photo
Please listen.

Disclaimer: In communication, we have the communicator and then we have the listener. What I say is not what I said, it becomes what is listened, what is heard. This has been the biggest lesson I have learned from my mom’s breast cancer and untimely death. I am going to do my best to share what I have learned, and continue to want to share every single time I see someone post or comment on social media about Mammograms. My hope is that you hear my care and concern for the health and well-being of women through what I have learned the hard way myself…

Here is the reason why Mammograms make me angry: they are one part of a diagnostic series that is commonly misunderstood. It’s not the single definitive-answer-giver.

I will never forget the day I accompanied my mom for her first mammogram. We did not know it would be her last. And, I wasn’t entirely sure what a mammogram would do for her, but I knew she needed to start somewhere to get some answers about her breast. The experience taught me what a mammogram is: the first step in a screening process to check on breast health. It’s step one or step two if you include self-breast exams.

For my mom, and myself months later, the mammogram can feel overwhelming as if getting a mammogram will reveal something wrong, rather than being a routine check-in as straight forward as others for your health. One of the most challenging parts of the experience is understanding that this just a step, not an answer-giver.

That’s why it felt nerve-wracking to get a call back that an ultrasound was needed. My mom’s call back happened before she left the hospital. Mine was a few days later.

The mammogram will not diagnose, it will tell you if there is anything unusual that needs to be looked into further. The second step diagnostic step is an ultrasound. This is a closer look into the body to see if there are any more definitive signs of irregularity of the breast tissue and milk ducts. If the answer is yes, then the next diagnostic procedure is a biopsy.

For my mom, her biopsy happened only an hour or so after her ultrasound. Her breast cancer was seen at stage 4, and there was a pretty clear picture showing this. My ultrasound showed a small growth that was not felt during any self-exams because it happened to be up against my chest cavity behind the nipple, no amount of hand exams would have felt it.

The biopsy is the clear opportunity for you to learn if you have cancer or not. Then, there is another round of diagnostic test to determine stage, type and other variations. Breast cancer is complicated, which I think gets lost in our social narrative where we see just a part of the whole experience.

For my mom, this was painful. It confirmed she had breast cancer, and it felt like it put her into some level of shock. It was overwhelming and she was told she needed more tests. My biopsy was painful, and the ache lasted 2 full months, but thankfully it confirmed a fibroid – not cancer!

I know I had no idea how complicated breast caner, or any cancer, really is until I saw it up close. It looks nothing like a handful of movies I had seen. There are intense choices to be made, lives put on hold, lives destroyed, and families in shock. My mom’s experience and death showed me how important mammograms are in a routine of tests we get to use to stay on top of our own health care.

My mom was 57-years-old when she died fighting breast cancer. While her breast cancer was aggressive, I firmly believe that had she gotten the routine mammograms, it would have been caught early enough to give her a fighting chance.

I could write a whole other post about my efforts to be able to get an early mammogram at 35, months after she died. Instead, I want to encourage everyone, no matter how uncomfortable they might be, to get your routine screenings and exams done!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Previous post: