October’s here (I know, I can’t believe it either), and you know what that means? Yes, time to get the girls out and have a good feel — because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month!
In the spirit of all things boob and to raise awareness for the prevention of breast cancer, I decided to take one for the WH team and go for a mammogram. Thank me later.
I visited the lovely ladies at Arya Stana Bone & Breast Care in Cape Town, where Dr Sumi Padayachee specialises in breast and bone imaging.
What to expect
I was talked through the procedure, step by step, so that I knew exactly what to expect. The breasts are placed, one at a time, onto a flat surface, while trying to hold your shoulders and head back, so they don’t get in the way of the imaging of the breast. A clear, flat perspex plate is then lowered onto the top of the breast and pressure is applied so that it squashes the breast as much as possible. (Who knew your boob could go that flat?)
The pain factor
I can assure you, there was no pain. Discomfort, yes — but it was from the pressure on the breast, not actual pain. Ten to 20 seconds later, the image is done and the perspex panel is released. And… repeat on the other side.
The machine is then tilted at a 45-degree angle and the same thing happens, to both breasts, except that the image is from side to side, not from top to bottom. And you’re done. Back in your bra! No pain, no bruises or marks, and your boobs are as perky as they were before. A maximum of 80 seconds – that’s all it takes.
What happens next…
Dr Padayachee also did an ultrasound of my breast, which is completely painless, and supplements the info from the mammogram. An ultrasound further characterises any abnormalities that may be found on a mammogram. It’s generally used to image breasts in women younger than 35 years old.
I was given the all-clear by Dr Padayachee and she gave me my breast images on a CD, which I can take back with me the next time I go for a mammogram, so that the images can be compared.
But I’m so young — do I really need to bother?
Now before you roll your eyes and say, “Ja, I’m only 25 — I’m too young to get my breasts checked,” hear me out. All women, from their 20s onward, should be checking their breasts for lumps. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate by age! If you’re 20 and older, you need to cop yourself a feel once a month. Dr Padayachee suggests that you do this between days seven and 10 of your monthly cycle (day one being the first day of your cycle).
Note: We all have different boobs. Some have lumpy breasts — that’s also quite normal — but get to know your particular lumps and bumps, so you’ll know if anything abnormal appears.
How to check your breasts
Besides your own monthly self-check, get your breasts looked at once a year when you visit your gynae (because you are visiting the gynae, right?). If not your gynae, then ask your GP, well-woman doctor, or any healthcare professional to do a quick check.
Facts you need to know
- Breast and cervical cancer are the most prevalent cancers there are for women.
- Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. One in eight!
- Breast cancer can strike at any age, so by getting your breasts checked from your 20s, you have a far higher chance of early detection. When caught early, breast cancer less than 1cm has a 98 percent cure rate.
- Eighty-five to 90 percent of breast cancer is not familial. This means that only up to 15 percent is hereditary.
- A healthy diet and exercise can reduce your chance of breast cancer.
And the myths you should ignore
- You can’t get breast cancer if it isn’t in your family. Wrong. See facts above.
- Younger women don’t need to check their breasts for lumps. Wrong again.
- You can’t have a mammogram before the age of 40 because your breast tissue is too dense. Wrong again! The advanced technology these days can image your breast in 1mm intervals – so density of tissue is not a problem to detect breast cancer early. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, are in your 30s and have concerns, you can certainly go for a mammogram and/or ultrasound.
Now is the time to scout for specials across the country as health professionals cut costs to encourage breast cancer awareness. So there are no excuses: just do it!