Cancer runs in my family. My mother’s great grandmother died of stomach cancer, my mother’s mother died of multiple myeloma, my father’s mother died from colon cancer, my father’s grandmother died of colon and liver cancer, my father’s sister had breast cancer, my father’s other sister has colon cancer, my cousin died from colon cancer, and my brother nearly died from testicular cancer. Because of these genetic predispositions, I have to be vigilant about consistent cancer screenings.
So, along with colon cancer screenings, I get regular mammograms. I had my first mammogram at age 40, and I’ve tried to do them regularly ever since. The Mayo Clinic recommends screenings at age 40 because mammograms can detect breast cancer early. However, mammogram screenings aren’t perfect. Sometimes, you can get a false-positive result. If this happens to you, they require you to do additional testing, and it can turn out not to be cancer, after all. These false positives are likely to occur in your 40s and 50s.
When I turned 50, I wasn’t excited about getting my regular mammogram. Then again, what woman looks forward to getting a mammogram? Admittedly, they aren’t as bad as colonoscopies (no prepping), but breast cancer screenings are uncomfortable and somewhat painful. You’d think after 100 years that they would come up with a better, less painful way to detect breast cancer, but no. Actually, my mother tells me that the procedure is a lot less painful than it used to be. Really?
Making the appointment
So, when I received the reminder from the hospital for my yearly mammogram, I ignored it. Even Breast Cancer Awareness Month came and went. I might have completely skipped the mammogram this year if it weren’t for the List.
I’m embarrassed to say that even though it was on the List, I cancelled the first appointment I made. I didn’t feel like getting my boobs smushed between two plastic plates. But knowing I needed to do it, I rescheduled it for the next month.
When the day for my mammogram arrived, I experienced a really easy check-in at the hospital and after 15 minutes, I was done. As I was checking out, the nurse told me I would receive my results within a week.
Like clockwork, I received a letter in the mail with the results of the screening. While everything looked good, I was told that because I have dense tissue in my breasts, I can have an increased risk of breast cancer. Apparently, the dense tissue makes it harder for the technician to evaluate the results. This stressed me out more than I care to admit. However, when I did more research, I learned that nearly half of all women age 40 and older who get mammograms have dense breasts. While this calmed me down a little, it still made me want to get a second opinion. As I reviewed the letter from the hospital, I read that I should discuss additional screening options with my primary care physician. Since I knew it was time to get a physical anyway, I decided to add this screening to the conversation.
Sadly, like the original mammogram appointment, I’ve put off getting another evaluation. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because my life is really busy right now. Or, maybe I’m afraid of what they may find. After all, cancer runs in my family. But luckily for me, I’ve started a new List. Yes, sometimes it takes a new List of 60/50/40/30 Things to get you to do the things you keep putting off but you really want/need to do. What do you need to add to your List?