Friend walks out of a local mall and nearly bumps into a mammography van in the parking lot. Sounds a bit like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? Well, I assure you it’s no laughing matter, and since October is Breast Cancer Month, I thought this might be a good time to remind you.
Every month, some government agency or insurance company or medical association releases another study or report or survey informing women about the importance of regular mammograms, when they should have their first one (no later than age 40), and how often thereafter they should have another. Yet, many of us still ignore these studies and accompanying pleas to help save our own lives.
To make it even easier, many medical centers and non-profit organizations in San Francisco and Northern California also fund and operate mammography vans that rotate through various venues every month. Using state-of-the-art digital equipment that emits the lowest possible radiation, technologists in these mobile labs obtain two-view mammograms. Each exam takes about 30 minutes, improving the convenience and availability of this critical screening, and requiring very little change in any woman’s busy schedule.
Back to my friend (we’ll call her Mary) and her unexpected encounter with the “Mammovan.” As she walked by the van in the parking lot, she noticed the door was open and peeked in. The nurse in the van said “hello” and asked her if she had ever had a mammogram. Mary said “no.”
The nurse told her an appointment had just opened up due to a late cancellation, so Mary asked if her insurance would cover the procedure and was told it absolutely would. That was the moment Mary made the decision to have her first mammogram. On a whim. Out of pure coincidence.
Two days, later Mary received a call from her physician asking her to come in for an appointment based on the results of her mammogram. She had a tumor in her breast and it was significant – but they had caught it in time to perform surgery with follow-up radiation. One year later, she showed no trace of breast cancer and received a clean bill of health.
That was more than 20 years ago. Today, Mary is not only fabulously healthy but the most fabulous grandmother. She also tells this story to other women as often as courtesy allows. Had she not magically found that mammography van in that parking lot, the ending to her story would not have been a happy one. All of us, including Mary, believe the universe had a hand in parking that van in that place at that moment.
But what are the odds of that happening again? You don’t have to rely on divine intervention to have a mammogram. You just need a phone. So, don’t be a boob. Call your internist, your obstetrician, your gynecologist or any local breast health center. Ask for an appointment – or at least ask if you’re old enough for your first mammogram.
And don’t be afraid. The procedure can be a bit uncomfortable, so it’s okay to feel a little anxious. But the good news is that staff members are usually kind, gentle and sensitive to your fears.
The other good news is that when you leave the center, you’ll have that grown-up feeling that comes from doing something good for your body. This is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
And Mary thinks it’s a wonderful idea.
Do you have a mammogram or breast cancer story of your own? Please share it with our readers in the Comments section. Your thoughts and experiences could help improve (or save) the lives of other readers. Thanks!