"So how many boobs did you squash today?" This was the same question I faced whenever I met with this young man in his mid twenties. Every time I wanted to wipe off that grin from his face and put on a frown of thoughtfulness instead. Every time I heard that question from him one of my patients from that day stood in front of my eyes. The anxiety on their faces, the nervousness in their voices came into my thoughts. So, one day when I met with him at one of the meetings, I said," I got something for you as a gift. But you have to promise me you won't turn red when you look at it." He promised he wouldn't. So I gave him my gift. It was the copy of a cartoon printed in one of the papers that had a man's private parts being smashed into a mammography machine. On the top it said, "If women controlled medicine." In the bottom it said, "Manogram". Sure enough my young colleague turned red in his face. I said, "See, that's how it feels to have a mammogram. And now you know it", I walked out feeling a sense of triumph. That evening I got an email. It said,"No manograms for me please. I got your point. No more boob jokes."
The suffering that is endured mentally and physically before, during and after a mammogram appointment is tremendous for many women. Over the years I have seen patients who just threw their large breasts onto the mammography plate and told us to compress as much as we wanted to and patients who were dumbstruck with fear and would not move a single step forward toward the machine. I have seen women taking it easy and telling me that it doesn't hurt to be compressed and I have seen women, especially the ones who came for a baseline mammogram absolutely petrified to be there. It is the fear of being compressed that gets most of the women rather than the results later. Having a mammogram is worse than going through childbirth, I was told by many patients over the years. They would rather go through that than this. What is that, that frightens these women for coming to get a life saving exam so much? There are several factors involved:
1. Tales about the compression from neighbors, co-workers or friends.