In January of 1993 I had the biggest scare of my life….
I distinctly remember what prompted me to do a self breast exam. The night before, we were watching Beverly Hills 90210 at Bechay’s house. This was the episode where Brenda found a lump in her breast. When I woke up the following morning, I was still thinking about that episode. For a 19year old girl, it is a pretty scary thought. And so I did the breast self exam as they showed it on TV. Imagine my horror when I found the first lump. I was so scared. I wanted to cry. All I could think off was, “I’m going to lose a boob.” Be kind, I was 20, death was not the biggest fear. When I found the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lump. I panicked. By the time I found numbers 5, 6 and 7 I was just numb. I was sure that was the end. I wanted my mommy.
I went home the following weekend and consulted the family doctor. Getting poked and probed was no fun but I was still so numb and scared. My surgery was scheduled the following week, in time for my 20th birthday. Great, NOT!.
The surgery was no biggie, waiting for the result of the biopsy was tough. After 4 days, we received the good news. Best birthday gift ever, followed closely by the red teddy with strategically positioned bandaids from my friends.
I hope that by this point you have paused and considered doing and/or reminded a friend to do a breast self-exam. C’mon it’s time to #dosomethingbeautiful against breast cancer. Do a breast self-exam. But I’m a man! Newsflash, men can have breast cancer, too.
Fastforward to 3 weeks ago, I am now 40 and the doctor recommended a mammogram. I know, it’s an Ouch episode in life. I had one before and it was not fun at all.
I am happy to report that in the last 15 years, the technology has improved heaps and it is no longer that painful or scary.
Let me tell you my Mammo is not mamaw scary story..
1. #Dosomethingbeautiful, book an appointment. There are now several hospitals with dedicated breast clinics. I went to the one at Makati Med. Be sure to make an appointment before going. Weekend slots are in demand so if you have time, opt for a weekday slot. They accept patients up to 5 or 6pm. Remember to come at least 30mins before your appointment.
2. Fill up forms. When you get to the clinic, like in any doctor’s clinic, you will be asked to fill up forms. And then you wait for a one of the staff to assist you and escort you inside.
3. Suit up. They have a special gown for you to wear when you are undergoing the tests. Bares the girls one at time when you are doing the sonomammogram. I snapped a couple of photos of the reminders for patients.
4. Step one for me was a Sonomammogram
It is a breast ultrasound that produces a picture of the internal structures of the breast.
What is it for?
It checks the breasts for any abnormalities and gives a distinct image of the insides of the breasts. You may undergo the procedure as an addition to a mammography to further check dense breast and to see the difference of solid from cystic masses.
Click here for complete info about it.
The nurse explained that the ultrasound is recorded as a video for the doctor to see. Unlike the typical ultrasound, they no longer use the parang paddle. A square acrylic block is placed on top of the area to be scanned and the scanner glides over the area. Closest description is like a squeegee going over a silkscreen when printing shirts. There are typically 3-5 passes/location per breast.
Pain level: nil to minimal and only on the bony areas.
5. Next up, the not mamawscary Mammogram. It is a low-dose x-ray picture of the breast.
1. One of the patient’s breasts is placed on a clear plastic plate and gently, but firmly, pressed from another plate above her breast. Ladies… and gents, be prepared the female technicians will position your breasts to ensure that they get their scans right the first time. You want them to get it right. Otherwise, it’s back to square one.
2. The plates flatten (Poor babies! But don’t worry just follow the breathing cues that they will give you. Inhale, hold and exhale. Scanned and done in less than 10 seconds) and keep it still. Remember you want them to get it right on the first try. Otherwise, ulit-ulit again and again. That will be extra ouch., which helps produce a better mammogram image. The pressure lasts a few seconds (no more than 10 seconds) and does not harm the breast.
3. The same steps are repeated with the other breast. To amuse/distract yourself, focus on the mood lighting. Yup, the backlighting of the machine changes to help patients relax.
4. The plates of the machine are then tilted to take a side view of each breast. Best innovation so far. My mammo from 15 years ago, the machine didn’t tilt yet. Awkward to the 5th power.
After the 2 scans, if the doctor wanted a close-up view. You may be asked back for a few more close-up scans. Don’t be scared, you want them to be thorough.
Pain level: 5-7. The close-up view is at 7. They use a smaller plate. Just like when they pinch you, mas manipis mas masakit. But it lasts no more than 10 seconds.
And you’re done! They will tell you when to come a pick-up your results.
I continue to be blessed and pray that it stay this way, my scans turned out fine again.
I hope that by sharing with you my story that you will make that all important decision and make time for a breast self-exam and even a mammo. Please pay it forward by reminding a friend or family member.
And if you are the forgetful type, download the Your Man Reminder app from itunes or google play and these hotties will remind to regularly do a self-exam.