"I haven't had a mammogram all my life", the patient looked at me and smiled with pride. "I am 70 years old now, frankly speaking I shouldn't be here today. If it didn't bother me all these years, why should I bother about it now?"
The woman said she was forcibly brought in by her daughter and sister for her baseline mammogram. She was very co-operative throughout the exam. She said it didn't bother her a bit as I compressed her. She found it amusing that her breasts were sandwiched between two plates. She kept looking at them and laughing about how they looked like pancakes under compression. She joked about how she did not have a need to touch them or feel them after her husband died 20 years before. I enjoyed her company while I did her exam. Rarely we get patients that are so jovial and easy going in the mammogram department. She kept calling me "little girl." She kept telling me, "Now, if I was your age", or "At your age I was..."
It turned out that her new caregiver found a lump under her left breast while dressing her for bed time and told the family members about it. And unfortunately I had to be the one to find out what that lump was. Technologists are the first people to examine patient mammography films after the exam. And more often than not it is the most difficult part of the whole process. We happen to find out any abnormality in the images even before the films go to the radiologists for the reading. Patients often ask us questions regarding the images and if we see anything wrong. They fail to realize that even though we are the ones who took their images, we are not authorized to reveal these results to the patients. So we see and we feel the sorrow seeping through our hearts imagining what is in store for that particular patient in the near future. In a matter of minutes we become emotionally attached to our patients. More often than not patients either think we are their saviors or we are their enemies. Either they want us to be the doctors or they want to get away from us.
Very rarely patients who come into a mammography department are free of anxiety. Fear of compression is the major player in these anxiety episodes.