Here in Colorado the aspen leaves have turned from quaking green to shimmering gold, signaling that the calendar page has changed over to October—and if it’s October, it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
There are many facets to breast cancer awareness, but perhaps the most important are prevention and early detection. When considering early detection, breast self-exams and mammograms quickly come to mind.
Most women have likely read the meant-to-be humorous descriptions of how to prepare for a mammogram. The actual steps of the procedure are exaggerated in such a way that any woman who has had the procedure can relate in some fashion and chuckle at the over-the-top descriptions.
The descriptions sound something like this: Freeze two metal bookends overnight. Strip to the waist. Invite a stranger into the room. Place one bookend beneath one of your breasts, and place the other bookend on top. Smash the bookends together as hard as you can. Set an appointment with the stranger to meet next year and do it again.
I laugh at these things, perhaps because the procedure has never been torturous for me. I have wondered, though, if the poking-fun pieces might deter women who do find mammograms painful from having the procedure.
Well, I had my annual mammo last week—my first done with the use of digital technology. Let me tell you, in terms of comfort, digital mammography is light years ahead of film mammography. Women who found the procedure painful in the past should no longer dread their yearly exams.
With no statistics to back me up, I am supposing that hospitals of any size are using digital technology, or soon will be.
The entire experience at this year’s exam bore little resemblance to last year’s. There was the large dressing room, a keyed locker for my belongings, a thick, warmed terry cloth robe, no squishing the breast flat and no breath-holding while the x-ray was taken. After the procedure, the technician was waiting for me as I exited the dressing room, presented me with a fresh carnation, escorted me to the door and offered a cheerful farewell. What a difference a year makes!
The upgraded experience, however, pales in comparison to the increased power of cancer detection that digital mammography provides. Radiologists can now evaluate digital images with greater intensity and accuracy, due to the more refined resolution and finer detail of digital x-ray. This results in earlier and more timely detection of breast changes.
I am interested in the stories of those of you who have found film mammography to be unusually painful. Please share them.
Have you experienced the digital procedure and was it as comfortable for you as I found it to be? Has the new procedure given you peace of mind, either from a detection standpoint or from that of not dreading future mammograms?