Crystal Graham: Don’t wait to get your mammogram
It started out with an itch. A quick scratch on my breast. And that’s when I felt it. A lump. On my breast. About the width of a quarter.
I’m a 43-year-old with no family history that I knew of. Never had a mammogram. I had read up on them and was planning to wait until 50 for my first.
Until last week. When I felt the lump.
I shared with my mom and sister that I found a lump. My sister said she had been getting mammograms since 40 due to our family history. Say what? I had somehow missed that my paternal grandmother had had both of her breasts removed due to cancer. How did I not know this?
And so there I was going from I’m not worried at all to, well, I’m scared.
I’m fortunate to have health insurance, and I promptly called my doctor to see if a referral was needed. I’m told to come in the next day to meet with a nurse practitioner.
She felt it, too. The lump. It wasn’t my imagination. She said while some doctors will say 50 for a mammogram, as a woman’s doctor, she still recommends 40.
Since the test ordered was diagnostic not preventative, I’m told I’ll be responsible for the charge. My insurance apparently doesn’t pay for the mammogram once you’ve found a lump.
Isn’t that insane? Isn’t that why you have insurance to begin with? To cover things when they go wrong? I guess that’s another conversation for another day.
So fast forward until today, when I had my appointment scheduled for a 3D mammogram. While checking in, I asked when I would get my results assuming 10 days or so. I’m told today. I think to myself that I wish someone had come with me … in case it is bad news. But you can’t turn back time, so I go forward.
I don’t really know how to describe the appointment. The mammogram hurt a little. It was tolerable.
After the test, I calmly sat in my little cubicle with the curtain pulled tight waiting for results. I was still wearing the pink coverup they had issued me … waiting to see if more imaging was needed after the radiologist reviewed my 3D images.
I heard many other people given the all clear to go home. And I still waited to hear my own fate.
A young lady knocked and then asked me follow her. That wasn’t the all clear I had been waiting for.
Apparently, after reviewing the mammogram, the radiologist ordered an ultrasound. After taking a number of photographs, she leaves the room.
I’m told to relax. She’d be back soon to discuss my results.
First up, my right breast. The one with no lump. That one apparently has some small cysts in it, but I’m told they are nothing to worry about.
The left breast. I’m told it’s not cancer. The left one, somehow, was caused by some kind of impact, and they think is some kind of bruising. Bruising? I don’t remember anything that would have caused that.
No cancer. The testing might cost me an arm and a leg, but at least it was good news. I know not everyone is that fortunate.
A crazy week, but a couple of good life lessons.
Talk to your doctor about when you should get a mammogram. I’d suggest you get one at age 40 no matter what – especially if you are insured. Preventative tests are generally covered by insurance, I’m told. But once you find a lump, well, if your insurance is anything like mine, your costs will be out of pocket and go toward your annual deductible.
Talk to your family about your medical history. There may be things that they know about that you don’t. You should never walk into a doctor’s appointment saying you have no family history when you are wrong.
Column by Crystal Graham