I turned 35 last year and the number of white hairs on my head and the mirror confirm what most people dread: getting older. But not me. As I laid in bed on my birthday I thought about what I want the next season of my life to look like. I made a mental list of personal and professional goals, things I want to be better at, do more, do less, etc. and I was excited. I have a six and a four-year-old, and until recently my goals were things like “Teach them to wipe their own behinds” but as their dependence shifts, I do too.
One of my “need to do” health items was a mammogram, but you are probably wondering ‘Why 35?’ and that brings me to the first thing you need to know: 35 is the new 40. My entire adult life I’ve known “Start having annual mammograms at 40” but after connecting with the Cris Collinsworth ProScan Fund, I heard about the importance of a baseline mammogram and that they could start as soon as 35.
What’s a baseline mammogram? Your first mammogram is a baseline, no matter when you have it, because it’s the first opportunity to see what you look like on the inside, and that helps determine what’s normal for you and what’s not. You see, most women don’t have images of the inside of their breasts lying around, and no one knows what the tissue looked like when you were 20 or 25 or 30, so when we turn 40 and start getting mammograms annually, the radiologists have nothing to compare them to. It would take more than one hand for me to tell you how many women I know who found something before they were 40, so between my people and my personal desire to catch any and all of the things early, the baseline at 35 was a no-brainer for me.
Click the button to see my quick chat with Lauren from the CCPF about baseline mammograms at 35.
Scheduling was quick and easy. Check-in took 5 minutes. The facility is lovely. The staff was super. The gown was less than flattering.
Does it hurt? If you’re anything like me you’ve heard more than one story about how very unpleasant mammograms are, and while I wouldn’t say they should offer punch cards for frequent visitors, this was totally manageable. Be prepared to be up close and personal with the tech. Their job of positioning you to get the best images the first time is a delicate balance of lifting and pulling and smoothing out skin and they will be in your business, but every tiny direction they gave me like “relax your shoulder” or “point your chin up” made me even more comfortable. The machines today are way better than they were 20 years ago, and while I’ll definitely acknowledge that it was uncomfortable (and awkward) it didn’t hurt. Remember: This is not your grandma’s mammogram.
Each image took 10 seconds, literally. They typically take two images of each breast, so that’s a grand total of 40 seconds that things were “smushed” (which is my highly technical term for “compressed in the fancy machine”).
After the mammogram one of two things can happen:
- The radiologist reviews your images, everything looks normal, and you receive a letter in the mail telling you everything is a-okay. This takes a week.
- The radiologist reviews your images, isn’t totally sure everything is normal, and you receive a call to come back. Callbacks are common. I received one.
What if you receive a call? I’d say “Don’t worry!” but that would be foolish, because when the doctor calls to say “We saw something we want to investigate further” you will worry. Instead, I’d encourage you to stay busy and to expect the best. (Oh, and for the love, don’t get all WebMD before you even know what they saw). Remember how no one knows what normal looks like for you? That’s most often why you receive a callback.
I ended up going back for some more images, which led to some more images, which led to an ultrasound, which led to the radiologist saying “I’m not sure what that is, and when we don’t know, we don’t leave it alone – we find out.” (PREACH). And so, I had a biopsy. And you know what? It turns out that what wasn’t so normal on the images was actually normal for me – and now we know. Knowing what’s normal for me not only saves us time later, but it helps the doctors be more effective later too. Now they can compare 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020 and the likelihood that they’ll see something before it’s serious is higher, which is not only my preference, but one of the things I’m doing to protect the “35 and up” season of my life.
I’m looking forward to growing old, friends. I’m looking forward to big kids and finally getting to sleep in on Saturdays again. I’m looking forward to feeling like my white hair is age-appropriate. I’m looking forward to being unable to understand “kids these days” and out of touch with the latest technology. I have lots of years ahead, and I’m sleeping better tonight knowing that we know what my normal is and we’ll be that much clearer about anything abnormal that may come along.
Between now and next year, here’s what I’ll be doing every month. Join me!