A few weeks ago I preached about the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness month and asked you all to schedule your mammogram appointments ASAP! Soon after typing that post I marched into Mater Hospital and demanded my very own mammogram, STAT! (Ok, I didn’t really shout STAT(!) at the hospital but I’ve always wanted to…) I was feeling so proud of myself, for taking care of myself! Go, me! So you can imagine my shock/horror when I was kicked out of Mater and told to return for a mammogram when I turn 40! Apparently, at the age of 30, I was deemed too young for a self-requested mammogram. Womp.
But what about my family history of breast cancer?! What about the fact that mammograms detect abnormalities even before they can be felt through self-exams?! What about the fact that I had told everybody (who reads my blog) to go for a mammogram STAT?! Would I at least get a pretty pink ribbon for trying?! Did any of this even matter? Apparently not. A Sister/Nurse/Matron woman (I’m not quite sure WHAT she was) at the hospital gently told me to return at the more sensible age of 40 OR go and see a doctor who might perhaps recommend a breast ultrasound if deemed necessary.
Naturally, after I was unceremoniously dismissed from Mater’s Radiology unit, I fired up Google to find out why, oh why, my request for a mammogram had been flat out rejected. What I found was this: According to the American Cancer Society, women don’t need to start getting annual mammograms until they turn 45. The reason for this is that mammograms at an early age unnecessarily subject women to false alarms. False alarms are very common when women are younger because pre-menopausal women have denser breast tissue which makes mammograms harder to read. Mammograms that are hard to read lead to many false alarms.
So, what are we to do? Preventive healthcare is still important, right? Absolutely! That’s why those of us under 40 are advised to religiously perform breast self-exams. In my case, because of the history of breast cancer within my family, I will also have a doctor perform a breast exam for me regularly. If any lumps are felt, then the doctor may recommend a breast ultrasound. A breast ultrasound is a test that doesn’t use radiation and is used to find out more information about a lump, such as whether it is filled with fluid (a cyst) or solid. Doctors have found ultrasounds to be quite effective for screening symptomatic younger women. (If you’re 30 or above like me, I’m sure you will read that sentence again just to savor the feeling of being referred to as a younger woman. Go ahead and take a moment. Let it marinate in your heart)
And there you have it, the long and short of why my request for a mammogram was REJECTED. Have you guys had similar experiences? What have your doctors said about this?
P.S. – Not all was lost. Preventive healthcare still came out on top. Since I was already at the hospital I quickly hopped over to the other side for my routine pap smear. I loathe pap smears. I half wished the Sister/Nurse/Matron woman would tell me I was too young for that as well. Ha! No such luck.