My 1st mammogram – a mixed bag…

Going for a mammogram is something I’ve been meaning to do for at least the last 5/6 years but that age-old excuse always kicked in – no time. Whenever I’d think about booking one I honestly didn’t know where to start & the biggest struggle was finding somewhere I could go to have this done on a weekend.

So with some time on my hands, I called my GP for some advice. The Doctor’s office let me know that just about any hospital should be able to help & that I should ask to be put through to their radiology department. I called & booked at Park Lane Clinic – not at all my favourite hospital (reminds of a dreary government hospital but they are currently renovating) but they were closest to home & could offer me an appointment the next day.

On arrival, I was initially quite surprised & more than a little irritated by the reception I received. The admin/reception staff repeatedly enquired about my age (I’m 30) & whether there was a family history of breast cancer (there’s none). They asked over & over as if not understanding why I was there. I was annoyed but pushed ahead anyway.

Park Lane Clinic is part of the Netcare group of hospitals

While the rest of the hospital is pretty depressing in terms of appearance (yes, I’m superficial like that!) I was really pleased to see that the radiology department has been cheered up quite a lot.

This is the inside of the waiting room (really!)  – I loved the decor & the touches

In the waiting room I completed the usual paperwork & found myself amongst other waiting women, all older than my mother. I was ushered to a changed room where I was given a robe (which should be worn to open down the front & not the back like you see in movies I learned!). With my robe well secured, up to this point I was rather unimpressed with the staff (it felt a little like I was on a conveyor belt of a production line) & the service held an undertone throughout of continuously asking me to justify why I was there!

When my turn came, I met the radiologist (a lady, thankfully) who was such a departure from everyone else I had met up to then. She was welcoming & explained the entire process to me as we went through it, answering all of my unending questions. The mammogram itself involved each breast being clamped (this really sounds worse than it is) – all done whilst standing upright. They try to “grip” as much breast tissue when doing this as possible & each breast x rayed twice: once straight ahead & then at an angle, checking your underarm area as well. At no point is it painful – at worst I would describe it as a bit uncomfortable & that passes in just a few minutes. The radiologist went on to say that around 1 in 2 women who come in find something in their breast(s), not cancer per se.

This info was then interpreted by the Dr (Dr Peter Schoub) & then there is a second part to the process I didn’t know about – an ultra sound which may or may not be necessary. It’s pretty much like the one done in pregnancy (well from what I’ve seen on TV!). Gel is applied to the breasts & they’re examined on a screen for the Doctor to see further details than what the mammogram provides. The doctor explained that if something is spotted in one’s breast, it can be one of 3 things:

  1. a tumour (malignant/benign)
  2. a lump
  3. a cyst (a sac/capsule filled with fluid)

The radiologist & doctor were super professional & fully restored my faith by the time I left. The thing that’s most concerning is the prohibitive cost of the procedure. In total it came to around R1200 – of which roughly R900 was covered by my medical aid (Discovery – I’m on the essential saver plan) from the preventative screening benefit (thank God it’s not from my MSA) & the balance, (around R300 to cover the ultra sound) I paid for cash.

I’m glad I finally made the time & went – it’s really not the dreaded, painful experience the urban legend makes it to be. If you’re on Discovery, check the benefits of your plan thoroughly. It turns out I could have a mammogram for free (or rather from the preventative screening benefit) every year so check & you may be in for a surprise.

PS be sure to catch this month’s Glamour – on page 96 Giuliana & Bill Rancic share the most intimate details of their triumph with breast cancer. Be warned, you’ll need tissues…

Hope your week is off to a super start!

W

Netcare Park Lane Clinic

Corner Junction Ave and Parklane, Parktown, 2193

+27 (0) 11 480 4000

http://www.netcare.co.za/

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About Wisaal

Reformed shopaholic. Absent sister. Unapologetic perfectionist. Trainee wife. Severe OCD. Cat person.
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7 Responses to My 1st mammogram – a mixed bag…

  1. Well done, Wisaal! Our nurses need to be trained on people skills. Sick and healthy people come to our hospitals for all sorts of reason…it’s really no time for 21 unnecessary questions! I hope you are more than healthy and get your mammogram done every year because you can! You have certainly inspired me…

  2. Thanks Kavuli, agree 100%! I really thought they’d be so pleased that I’d come early, instead I felt like I had to talk them into doing me a favour… And this in a private hospital – very sad. I’ve decided to send them this post.

  3. Tendayi says:

    Thanks for sharing Wisaal. Now I have to go buy Glamour too on top of all the other magazines I buy! *sigh*

  4. Meruschka says:

    So, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 28, but not through a mammogram (my boyfriend discovered the lump) and an ultrasound and biopsy confirmed it. I don’t think mammograms are necessary if you’re under 40 and don’t have a history however I cannot stress the importance of regularly checking your breasts (ask your GP if you don’t know how). I now go for annual mammograms, however I do find them quite painful. The good news is that I’ve been 4 years cancer free!

  5. Hey Tendayi. I dont think you’ll find out, the November issue is already out, but I will see if I can scan & mail to you – its so heartwarming, I love those two!

    Meruschka, thanks for sharing, wow! Yeah I need to learn to do a self exam. Have read about it but never quite sure I’m doing it right. That IS the best news indeed, so glad you caught it early! Thanks for sharing your story…

  6. Hi Wisaal. Sorry for the late reply. I appreciate your honest and detailed feedback on your experience in our department. It seems that other than some excessive questioning and the cost of the procedure, it was overall, a positive experience. Obviously the last thing we want is that any patient feels badgered or unwelcome when coming for a mammogram and I apologize if the tone of the questioning was unfriendly. The reason we are a bit over-zealous when doing mammograms on on younger patients, is that radiology has come under some fierce scrutiny with regards to mammography. We are strongly discouraged from doing mammograms on patients younger than 35. The reasoning is two-fold. Firstly, there is a fear that younger breast tissue is more susceptible to radiation damage from the x-ray.(the radiation exposure, is in fact minimal) Secondly, it is thought that younger breast tissue is generally denser, and that the mammogram is less useful.
    On top of this, there has been a lot of opposition to routine mammography in general, as we are accused of “over investigating” women, and causing unnecessary anxiety and surgical intervention in patients who were incorrectly identified as having breast cancer.
    With this in mind, we have to be a little bit cautious with mammograms in younger patients lest we should be accused of over-investigation or causing unnecessary harm in patients for whom the guidelines discourage mammography.
    Nevertheless, I strongly support breast examinations in any patient who wants it. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to catch this disease early. We try to ensure that all patients have as many facts about breast cancer and breast screening as possible, and will always endeavor to identify the earliest abnormalities. I generally recommend mammograms from age 40 as a routine (SA and USA guidelines), and from age 35, if requested, or in a higher risk patient. Ultrasounds would be done on any patient regardless of age.
    I would be happy to do a breast cancer talk to any interested parties. Knowledge is power. Regards. Dr Peter Schoub

  7. Dr Schoub,

    Thanks for taking the time out to read about my experience & write me this detailed response. I’ve read it at least 4 or 5 times already just to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. I mostly appreciate the sentiment of your note & I feel like its left me with a richer understanding. Knowlegde is power – I could not agree more.

    I wanted everyone to see this, so I reposted your comment on my blog today: http://tinyurl.com/bteqhnl

    Thank you for caring enough to reach out. It blew me away.

    Wisaal

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