How much pain can you stand?

Published 7:47 pm Saturday, December 1, 2012

This day was a little different from the usual. I had put it off, waiting until I just had to do it. I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. It was time for my annual mammogram.

Oh, how we women dread those mammograms. It isn’t really a pleasant medical test, but when you think about it — what medical test is pleasant? So far I haven’t found one. Believe me, mammograms are far from pleasant, but not too terrible, all things considered. Compared to something like radiation and chemotherapy for cancer, a mammogram is a piece of cake.

Bearing written orders from my doctor, I called and made an appointment for a mammogram and a Dexascan — a procedure that checks for bone density. Since I have become older, my bones have thinned some — osteopenia. It’s midway between strong bones and osteoporosis — which is a serious thinning of the bones.

“Remove everything from the waist up and put on this gown; leave it open in front,” the technician said. A hospital gown is an enigma. It’s hard to figure out, especially if it has three armholes. Luckily, I was given one with only two armholes. No problem.

Then the big test.

How much pain can you stand? I guarantee you will find out during the classic mammogram. When you feel the pain, you say (or yell) “Stop!” and usually they will stop the pressure right there. If you yell too quickly, they may have to put a little more pressure to get a good reading. You hear a fairly lengthy (it seems) buzz and the pressure is released. This is done four times — twice on each side… and then it is over. Only takes a few minutes.

Truthfully, I am exaggerating just a bit! It really isn’t that bad, particularly if you get a good technician. Mine was excellent. My biggest pain was trying to stand long enough for the test while my bad leg was throbbing. A lower back problem that extends into the leg is much more painful than the mammogram.

Mammograms save lives. I personally know several women who are alive because of early detection of breast cancer during their annual mammogram screening. Finding breast cancer in its early stages is the clue to defeating it. Having the test done once a year increases your chances of detecting it early.

Following the mammogram was the Dexascan, which involves lying down while a scanner passes over your body. If you are right-handed, it will scan the left leg and vice versa. It was explained to me why this is, but truthfully, my leg was really hurting and it just went over my head. If you have one done, and you are interested, ask the technician.

The whole thing including the mammogram took about 30 minutes and I, and my doctor, will get the report in a few days. If there should be a problem, I would be contacted immediately. Having gone through mammograms for many years, I am hopeful that the report will be good once again.

I realize that October is usually the month when mammograms are stressed, but I’m usually behind and November is more convenient for me.

According to a little pamphlet I picked up while there, older women are more likely to have breast cancer and it is very important to get these yearly screenings. The older you get, the more you need a mammogram. Nearly eight of 10 breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. A woman who is 70 is almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer in the next year as a woman who is 50.

Chances are I (or you) don’t have breast cancer, but getting a yearly mammogram gives us peace of mind.

You already have your flu shot and you don’t have your mammogram? Then call your doctor ASAP and go get your mammogram.

By the way, you should have been getting them since you were 40.

Retired Lifestyle Editor Bob Ann Breland, a resident of Pine, writes a weekly column and may be contacted at