A Minute to Myself (64)

It's Mammogram Time!

I had my annual mammogram the other day, and the absurdity of the test makes it ripe for mockery. How can you not try to find the humor when you are embracing a machine with your right shoulder down, your left arm up and wrapped around the machine holding onto a metal handle, with your chin up, leaning back slightly, your left breast crushed between plastic plates, and you’re told “don’t breathe”? It's Breast Twister!


Before I start I want to add a disclaimer: this reflection in no way discounts the importance of having an annual mammogram, nor does it take a lighthearted view of breast cancer, whose presence is felt when I read the obituaries because so often when a woman under 60 has died, it is from breast cancer, and within one year two teachers in the school where I teach died from breast cancer, one a mother of four high school-aged kids and the other a women in her seventies who was still teaching because she still loved it.


With that being said, onto the task at hand.


I actually did a little research here and found that “breast compression” is needed to:

  1. Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualized.
  2. Spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities won't be obscured by overlying breast tissue.
  3. Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged.
  4. Hold the breast still in order to eliminate blurring of the image caused by motion.
  5. Reduce x-ray scatter to increase sharpness of picture. 

Okay. The breasts need to be squished to get a more effective image. Does that mean that our breasts need to be hoisted, one at a time, onto a relic from the days of the Inquisitor? Once you are finally in place, thinking I can do this, the technician—in her gown—leans over and tightens the screw. OW OW OW! You are officially in uncalled for discomfort, and if she twists the screw just a bit more to ensure that she will get a good image—that you have been properly compressed—you are in pain.


I don’t care what the radiologists say, when any other part of the body needs to be x-rayed the body part under question is not flattened between two hard surfaces. Do penises ever need to get x-rayed? I wonder how they do that? Do they place it on cotton, like you find in jewelry boxes, and then just take a pic from above while the man is looking at Playboy, you know, to get the right angle?


Another discomforting aspect of the process is that by the time we are at the age of annual mammograms we have lost a modicum of perkiness in our breasts. We’re just not as proud of them as we used to be. If someone calls out to me to put a bra on (which happened in Israel in my bra-free days) it wouldn’t be because I was causing heart palpitations and thoughts not in accordance with propriety, but because it was just too sad to see a woman thinking that she looks like her daughter. So now it is that we have to expose them to an unknown woman who then handles them as if they are the slabs of muscle that they are. Oh, the humiliation. Is this how a flower feels (sorry vegans, I think plants have feelings) when it is plucked and then put in a dictionary which is slammed shut to ensure that the job gets done?


Would they have invented a different machine if women were properly respected? Yes, I understand that this is for us, for women. But seriously, can you imagine a researcher going home to his mother and describing to her the machine he is developing? At that point would she be proud of him or regret that she hadn’t lobbied for law school?


And why haven’t things changed? When an abnormality was discovered in my right breast a few years ago I was ushered into the ultrasound room. Oh, how I hate getting special treatment. There, my breast got the treatment my pregnant belly got a few times: a gob of cool lubricating fluid, and then a little hand-held scanner is moved back and forth to get an efficient picture. Why couldn’t they do that right away if it is more precise? It seems like less equipment and someone has got to realize that the mammogram is uncomfortable and humiliating. And there’s nothing like a little massage, even by a scanner.



Someone else wrote that her mammograms always comes back inconclusive and then she has to get the ultrasound - yet her insurance co (even after 10 years) will never let her skip the mammo and go straight to the u/s. Cruel and unusual punishment, to be sure!

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

I wonder what their rationalization might be. Could it possibly be misoygnistic? (By the way, I spelled that right without needing the spellcheck.) It's a breast panini!


LOL..you did it again Laura. By the way...I can BET my last dollar ..that the mammogram machine was invented by a MAN...probably one like your crazy, disgusting pig of an ex-husband.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Thanks for the compliment Gwen.
Keeping on that train of thought. Is it any wonder that men like football. I mean really, what is that except men hurting each other.
Where did I put my penis press?


so, if the breasts need to be FLATTENED how come we can't just lean or lay breast-side downward onto some sort of screen? how easy, simple & logicaal would tht be?

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Karen, good idea, we could just recreate a Playboy pose and have them take pics of us. I'm not sure, though, which is more degrading.

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