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Your First Mammogram

Many women are afraid of their first mammogram, but there is no need to worry. By taking a few minutes each day the week preceding the exam and doing the following practice exercises, you will be totally prepared. And best of all, you can do these simple practice exercises right in the comfort of your own home!

Exercise #1: Freeze two metal bookends overnight. Strip to the waist. Invite a stranger into the room. Place one bookend under and the other over one of your breasts. Have the stranger smash the bookends together as hard as s/he can. Set an appointment with the stranger to meet next year and do it again.

Exercise #2: Open your refrigerator door and insert one breast between the door and the main box. Have one of your strongest friends slam the door shut as hard as possible and lean on the door for good measure. Hold that position for five seconds. Repeat again in case the first time wasn’t effective enough.

Exercise #3: Visit your garage at 3:00 am when the temperature of the cement floor is just perfect. Take off all your warm clothes and lay comfortably on the floor with one breast wedged under the rear tire of the car. Ask a friend to slowly back the car up until your breast is sufficiently flattened and chilled. Turn over and repeat for the other breast.

Congratulations! Now you are properly prepared for your mammogram.

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • jennycherie November 4, 2007, 5:56 pm


    oh my goodness. . .that was really funny!:tooth:

  • davidson November 4, 2007, 6:02 pm

    Thank you, dear! LOL! LOL! I really needed that. Six months ago, I went in for my mammogram. They said, “OH DEAR, you need to come back.” So I went back, and they said, “OH DEAR, DEAR! you need to come back again!” And so I did. And I started wondering who I might ask to sing at my funeral!
    This is so weird. After several tests, each more sobering than the previous one, it turns out I had a WART inside a cyst inside my breast, which they said was totally harmless. (Why, oh why, do I have to be the possessor of the medical oddities!)

    And as a parting shot, they said, “Come back in six months. It’s probably nothing, but it MIGHT TURN INTO SOMETHING. (You sleep well, too.)

    It’s time for the next six-month mammogram. Even with insurance, I almost can’t bring myself to go. It was emotionally traumatic. It was expensive. It yielded nothing to worry about (but it MIGHT turn into something to worry about.) I know I need to do it again, but I was really dreading it. I think you sent that comment just for me, if no one else! Thanks.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 4, 2007, 6:45 pm

    Oh, Davidson, that would be funny except that I’m sure it wasn’t. Augh!

    I haven’t had one yet. I don’t want one.

  • agardner November 4, 2007, 9:24 pm

    Guess what, Alison, it’s time!!

    I’m only 36, but at my last checkup (at age 35) my doctor told me she is recommending them at 35 now. I have no family history, had not felt any lumps, etc. but it was just a routine screening.

    Well, my story ended up just almost like Davidson’s! I went in, did the deed (which was all it’s claimed to be, lol!), and then got a call saying there were “abnormalities” in both breasts. I was supposed to come in immediately for an ultrasound on one side, and 3 months later for another mammogram on the other. The ultrasound showed that whatever was in the one is now gone…but the other side is still giving me problems. Whatever was there was still there three months later, so they did an ultrasound. They don’t think it’s a cyst or cancer, so they don’t know what it is.

    Now that Davidson said it, maybe I have a wart!

    Anyway, whatever it is, I still can’t feel it, but it shows up. It hasn’t changed at all so they aren’t too worried about it, but I have to go back in again in December to have it looked at again. Oh the joys!

  • jennycherie November 5, 2007, 4:54 am

    doggone it, I Just lost my response. Well, anyway, I’m not sure I can totally get behind the article–not all cancers are worth knowing about? I’m skeptical of that–maybe just because it’s the first time I’ve ever heard that. But there weren’t saying the mammogram does anything harmful, just that it can detect really small, slow-growing cancers that might not kill you. To be honest, as long as there is even a chance that a mammogram could catch breast cancer early, I will have them. As someone with a strong family history of breast cancer (both mom and grandma), I sometimes feel like it is just a matter of *when* I’ll get breast cancer, not *if*. If there were ever a convenient time to do such a thing, there are days when I think a prophylactic mastectomy wouldn’t be such a bad thing–not seriously, but it does cross my mind at times. I guess, for my part, I’d rather know about the small, slow growing cancer so I can get it out of my body NOW.

  • dallasmeow November 5, 2007, 4:47 pm

    When I went for my first, even my second, I thought – this is easy, and not painful at all! Why do women whine so much – jeesh. Then I turned 40 . . .
    What did I know?
    changes to the body . .
    I would RATHER lie on the garage floor and be run over now!

  • SilverRain November 5, 2007, 5:42 pm

    Well, I didn’t say that THAT source said they were harmful, just that SOME sources POSITED they MIGHT be harmful. I was too lazy to go find those to quote them. I’m not big on remembering or finding sources – never have been. But then, I’m not trying to prove anything. I just thought it was interesting.

    Not sure I want to have mammograms. Cancer is as good of a way of dying as any, though I’m bucking for heart failure.

  • kiar November 5, 2007, 6:26 pm

    “Cancer is as good of a way of dieing as any…”
    Can I please pick my jaw up off the floor and hope to the high heavens that you are joking? there is no good way to die of cancer. My dad died of cancer, and I watched him shrink from 5′ 11″ and 170lbs to 4′ 11″ and 85 lbs. My uncle is currently dieing of cancer, and cannot speak, because he has had part of his throat removed. He cannot eat normally, and is fed through a tube in his stomach. I am sure both these men thought that cancer was just a freaking hoot to get, and consequently die, or will soon die of. a friend in highschool died of a brain tumor… Another of lymphoma… Cancer is painfull, demoralizing, and a horrid way to have to leave this life. Sometimes its even worse to live with it. Needless to say, this kind of hits close to home for me. I get that you are most likely joking, but to me, and others who have survived family members or survived the disease itsself, it just isn’t funny.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 6, 2007, 1:58 am

    Posted By: agardnerGuess what, Alison, it’s time!!

    Where’s the “la la la la I can’t hear you” emoticon???

    Silver, you’re killing me.

    kiar, I understand your pain, but frankly, I think we HAVE to be able to laugh, yes, even at deadly diseases.

    One of my dearest friends in Boca, and my bishop, died of a brain tumor in 1998. It WAS a horrible death. I sang at his funeral and still miss him. (You’ll find him pop up in my posts on occasion. His name is Robes.) But he, of all people in the world, is absolutely still joking about it. You should have heard the conversation when he called to tell us. Utterly ridiculous. In fact, I argued with him for about ten minutes before I actually believed he was serious.

    My mother died after years suffering from TIAAs which cause severe dementia. What a nightmare of a way to die. Still, when my dad is forgetful, he jokes that he has “partsheimers.”

    So, when people use terms like “brain dead” or “retarded” I really think we shouldn’t get all worked up about it. EVEN IF we know someone who was brain dead or retarded.

    I heard there was some whole shpiel about who you could and could not call retarded on an episode of The Office, but I didn’t see it. I have to get in more. 😉

  • SilverRain November 6, 2007, 4:53 am

    Thanks, Alison. I wasn’t sure how to respond without sounding callous. I frequently think gallows humor, I just don’t always share it. Too morbid for most delicate sensibilities, y’know?

    Kiar – I’m sorry it hurt your feelings. At the same time, I think you’re taking it rather too seriously. Humor about death has its place and time. When I’m going through bouts of depression-fighting, I find gallows humor helps to cheer me up in ways other humor can’t. Obviously, I’d not make jokes about it at someone’s funeral. Also – you misjudge when you think I’ve not had friends and family suffer from cancer. Please try not to extend your own sensibilities onto those who may not share them in an effort to make your point seem more valid. I’d understand better if you’d stuck to “this hurt my feelings.”

  • SilverRain November 6, 2007, 5:05 am

    Back to the raised by jennycherie –
    The reason I think “smaller cancers” are not always good to detect is because they are not always malignant. Cancer can crop up in your body all the time, but your body has means of fighting against it and neutralizing it. Detecting cancers that the body can take care of on its own only serves to panic and stress those who really don’t need more stress and panic in their lives. Cancer is actually a natural function of the body. The only time cancer becomes a problem is when it overcomes your body’s natural defenses and begins to replace healthy cells at a rate that disrupts the body’s functions.

    Cancer is just normal cells that have gone bad – usually in ways that accelerate cell production, but fail to copy cells accurately. That is why things like chemotherapy and radiation treatments are supposed to work. They target fast-growing cells more strongly than they target slowly growing cells. (Which, incidentally, is why hair loss is such a problem. Hair follicles reproduce hair cells at an alarming rate. Additionally, white blood cells tend to reproduce quickly, so chemo and radiation treatments can also lead to decreased immunity from common diseases.) Basically, it’s like spraying your house with poison to kill insects. It’s not that it isn’t poisonous to you, it’s that the poison isn’t strong enough to kill you, but is strong enough to kill the bugs. Given enough of the same poison, you’d die, too. Many of the “side effects” of cancer actually come from the treatments. When given in too high a quantity, these cancer fighting tactics begin to disrupt the function of and kill off regular cells. Hence, the search for a cure for cancer lies in trying to discover a way that can automatically discern between healthily reproducing cells and ones that are cancerous.

  • davidson November 6, 2007, 7:13 am

    Thanks, Alison; I always wondered how you spell shpiel!

    Let’s play nice, kids. You’ve all presented valid points. Silver, I’d never heard that particular point of view, that there were some cancers which could be harmless. I’m interested in their position. How do they determine they won’t become harmful? (Sorry, I had to change my original “harmless” to “harmful.” No wonder no one will answer my questions! I can’t seem to ask them correctly! Duh.) Was it a matter of long-term follow-up on studies? It does seem a little risky for them to take that stance.

    I think the vast majority of people, especially people who have been personally effected, don’t see ANYTHING that is funny about cancer. Alison and Silver have developed a coping mechanism that works for them–but it might not work for everybody. Or maybe it would work for them later, but not now. Remember Steel Magnolias? And the conversation in the living room the night before the mother and the daughter were going to have life-threatening kidney surgery? The joviality about a serious thing helped some of the family members cope and caused others to be disgusted and offended. Humor about this subject might NEVER help Kiar. Maybe it will always be painful. If she is trying to extend her sensibilities onto you, are you trying to extend your insensibilities onto her?
    And having said that, I DO love all of you and care about all of you, and that isn’t false. I recognize I’m taking a risk by saying anything, but it is a risk I am willing to take.

    I would NEVER think jokes about sexual abuse were funny. I think fat jokes are usually pretty funny, even though I’m not Twiggy. I guess it just depends on what your buttons are. And why.

  • agardner November 6, 2007, 8:35 am

    When I was getting my most recent ultrasound, I was waiting with a 23-year old girl who was there because she found a lump. They did a mammogram and it looked suspicious, so she was going to have an ultraound. I never did hear her outcome but she was a nervous wreck. Her two aunts both had breast cancer in their 40’s and her mom in her 30’s.

    As much as we joke about how these things aren’t fun (and they aren’t – although I didn’t think the first one was all that bad. The others have hurt more!), I’m just glad they have the technology to catch some of these things early. Like I said, whatever I have in there isn’t growing and they are just watching it, but it’s good to know that we are keeping on top of things so that if something does develop, it can be taken care of quickly.

  • kiar November 6, 2007, 9:14 am

    Sorry if it sounded like I felt like I was the only one to experience this. I know for a fact that I am not. And I do understand “gallows humor” and have a pretty warped sense of humour myself. Sorry if I offended anyone for getting my own toes stepped on.

  • davidson November 6, 2007, 9:56 am

    Alison! You’ve “got to get in more”? Ha! Ha, ha! You’re cute, dear. Loved it. I’ll pop popcorn for the next time you “get in” to watch an episode of The Office. (What’s The Office?) (For that matter, what’s a TV?) (For that matter, what’s a living room? It’s in here somewhere; I saw it just last night.
    Sigh. The kids went to school and left a big mess. Do I clean it up or wait and have them clean it up when they get home? . . .)

    Agardner, I’m praying for ya! For me, at least, the difference in the pain level of having a mammogram has less to do with age and more to do with the skill of the technician. Steve Martin said once, “Some people have a way with words, and some people. . .oh! some people. . .not have way, I guess?” Some people have a way with equipment, and some people “not have way.”

    Kiar, one of the many things I love about you is your sense of humor! And Silver, one of the many things I love and appreciate about you is your willingness to “cut through the fat.” My Dutch father-in-law was like that, and at first I was pretty offended by it, just because it wasn’t the way I was raised. But I grew to love his honest opinion, and I found I could count on him for a valuable alternate point of view. He’s gone now, but I still think about the things he taught me.

  • davidson November 6, 2007, 10:04 am

    Agardner! “Keeping on top of things?” Ha! (And pressing down HARD, I might add.) You kill me!
    Maybe they kill me? But only once or twice a year, and only for a few seconds. . . .:wink:

  • momof2 November 6, 2007, 10:34 am

    Posted By: davidsonThe joviality about a serious thing helped some of the family members cope and caused others to be disgusted and offended.

    When my grandmother died, at her viewing a lot of the family was gathered around sharing stories about her quirks and laughing (lovingly) about her unique personality. Most of us were comforted by that, but one of my cousins became very upset that anyone would be laughing at such a sad time. I felt bad that we’d hurt her.

    I tend to upset some of my siblings, because I use dark humor in dealing with our childhood. I have to be very careful who I’m talking with when I start joking.

  • davidson November 6, 2007, 11:28 am

    Good points, dear. Hugs to you. I grow to love you ladies more all the time.

  • agardner November 6, 2007, 11:45 am

    Davidson, lol! I didn’t even catch that pun. Good one.

    I think you are right about the technician making a difference – and also I think my follow up mammograms were more painful (I guess uncomfortable would be a better word) because they were looking at a very specific area, and it wasn’t that easy to get to! They had to twist me and turn me and squish me all kinds of different ways, and then I had to stay like that for a minute while they made sure they got a good image before they “set me free”. I have to go back again in December, but just for the ultrasound this time.

    I’m not too worried about it, as I’ve always had “dense” breasts and frequent cysts. But there is something just hanging out in there for at least a year now, and I’m not sure what is. At least it’s tiny and doesn’t seem to be growing at all. That’s what we hope for.

    Whoever said they have a history of breast cancer in their family and have considered a preventative mastectomy, I don’t think that idea is really that “out there”. One of these times while I’m out for something, I’d like them to remove all my female parts that can get cancer (since I can’t have more children anyway) – a few less things to worry about! Not really, I absolutely hate surgery of any sort so I wouldn’t really do it, but the thought has definitely crossed my mind!

    When I had my last c-section, I told the doctor just to take my appendix out and do liposuction while he was already in there. He didn’t go for it….

  • jennycherie November 6, 2007, 11:50 am

    Posted By: agardnerWhen I had my last c-section, I told the doctor just to take my appendix out and do liposuction while he was already in there. He didn’t go for it….

    I know! I don’t see why they couldn’t have just removed the fat instead of working around it! I’ve given them several good opportunities!

  • davidson November 6, 2007, 12:22 pm

    Jennycherie. . .maybe. . .cut through the fat? Ha! No more puns, I mean it!

    Let’s share a hospital room, all of us, and have surgery on the same day!

  • SilverRain November 6, 2007, 6:59 pm

    Silver, I’d never heard that particular point of view, that there were some cancers which could be harmless.

    That’s not exactly a point of view. That’s science as I’ve been taught it. That is what is meant by “benign” and “malignant” cancer. I’m not trying to voice my opinion on it, but am just giving the points of my knowledge that are pertinent to why the study might have spoken of cancer the way they did. They were probably referring to benign cancer. If you input “about cancer benign malign” into Google, you’ll get a lot of information. One thing I’ve heard said that is a little misleading to my understanding is “benign means not cancer”. Though true in one sense, it’s not strictly true, as benign tumors CAN become malign. They are still cancer on a cellular level, and are watched carefully because of that, but they’re cancer which the body has isolated and controlled.

  • Rebecca November 6, 2007, 7:57 pm

    Alright, I am going to chime in here since I have had experience with this. When I was in my early twenties and pregnant with my second child my OB found a lump in my breast during a check up. He sent me off to get an ultrasound (less risks for pregnant women). I knew something was not right when they did the ultrasound and then immediately took me in for a mammogram…even though I was pregnant. Long story short I was scheduled for a lumpectomy a few weeks later when the doctor felt the continued growth of the lump outweighed the risks of operating on a pregnant woman. There were no risk factors in my immediate or extended family and I was very young so I expected it to be very minimal…and the doctor had said that it would most likely be minor with a little scar. I remember waking up and the doctor telling me that they had to be ‘aggressive’ and that they had removed at least half of my breast to be safe. That was very traumatic for me (not to mention waaaay painful) but what do you do? The tumor turned out to be a benign tumor. The doctor said there was a possibility that it would have never developed into anything more serious but health care providers tend to err on the side of caution and do the most they can do…even if it’s later found out to be unnecessary. That’s why I believe that it’s best to learn all you can about things before you get caught up in the medical system doing everything they can just to be safe.

  • agardner November 6, 2007, 8:20 pm

    Wow Rebecca, what an ordeal! It must have been difficult to deal with all of that while expecting a baby. I’m not sure if it’s best to say I’m sorry they were so aggressive since it was benign, or just be happy that it was benign At any rate, I’m really sorry you had to go through that.

  • mlinford November 6, 2007, 11:50 pm

    Loved the original post. Made me laugh. The last part of the comments have been depressing, though. Mortality is hard. It’s hard also to know where to draw the line with intervention and preventative screenings, etc.

    Having had a close relative almost die of breast cancer, though, makes me think that early detection is not all bad. Self exams get to problematic lumps too late.

  • SilverRain November 5, 2007, 4:38 am

    I have found it interesting that they’re now saying that mammograms really don’t have any significant benefit.

    Some sources tentatively posit that frequent mammograms may actually do harm.

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