A Very Squishy Public Service Announcement

This summer I got a birthday card from my health insurance company.  "Congratulations!" it read.  "You’re 36!  To help you celebrate, we’d like to pay for you to have your tender anatomy squeezed into shapes flatter than God ever could’ve possibly intended!  Happy birthday!"

I’m kidding.  It actually said something about "being responsible with your breast health," and "getting your first mammogram" and I thought with great thankfulness that I was glad my health insurance takes preventative women’s health seriously.

And I also thought that I would’ve enjoyed a Sonic gift card a lot more.

But I’d been doing my homework, and I knew that having a mammogram in your mid-thirties is a very good idea, even if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer.  It hopefully gives you and your doctor a healthy baseline for later mammograms, in case future problems arise. 

Since I know that many of you reading this are my age or younger, and maybe you’ve never had a mammogram yourself, I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to be frank with you about what a mammogram is really like.  Knowledge is power, right?  I’m kind of a wimp ("kind of?" says my husband), and I was a little nervous about the test.  You hear horror stories now and then–were they true? 

So here we go.  Frankly.

In preparation, they tell you not to wear any lotions, perfume or deoderant before you test.  (No worries on my end, though I’m not sure I can say the same for the moms around me at preschool drop-off).  Deoderant can cause false positives, they explained, so it’s an important guideline to follow.  Another good piece of advice?  Check your calendar and schedule your mammogram at the point in your cycle when you’re least likely to feel tender.

I arrived at the House O’ Squishing this morning.  I checked in at the front desk, and they handed me a pink lapel ribbon and a pink bottle of water.  Then I sat down on the pink sofa to fill out my pink paperwork while sitting next to a pink sculpture of two breasts.

Evidently, they were going for a bit of a motif.

The tech (would you like to guess the color of her scrubs?) called me to the back, and she had me undress from the waist up.  She gave me a pink and white floral poncho for a cover-up, because you know that nothing restores your dignity like a pink and white floral poncho.

After I changed, the tech led me into the exam room, where two additional techs were waiting.  There were three of them.  Three?  I gulped.  Good Lord, does it take three of them?  Does someone have to hold me down?  They must have seen my flicker of nerves, because they warmly laughed.  The woman, who was clearly the Squisher In Chief, told me they were doing some training today.  Squisher In Chief told me that she’s a mammography educator who has been teaching at MD Anderson in Houston for 20 years.  She was there to train the other techs about the latest techniques for "getting every possible bit of tissue in the scan."

Alrighty then.  This sounds like fun.

Off came the poncho, and the (three!) techs applied (pink!) stickers.  They’re locaters, they told me, to help the radiologist know what’s what.  I think there’s a punchline there, but you’ll just have to go for it yourselves.

The scanner itself was not what I expected–you know, no skulls and crossbones or piercing, vibrating electrodes.  It looked less like a torture device and more like a popcorn popper.  The squisher panel (that would be the technical term) on top appeared to be made of acrylic, considerably less scary than, you know, the cement block I had envisioned.  The corners were rounded, and the machine (despite the horror stories I’d heard) was pleasantly warmed. 

Squisher In Chief began positioning me on the popcorn popper.  There was no room for modesty in that scan room, but that’s okay.  These women were there to do a job, and that requires a good bit of, um, handling.  The Squisher In Chief and I are verrrrrrry intimate now.  But she was professional, and remarkably, she kept me at ease the whole time.  And I felt some comfort in knowing that this was going to be thorough.

So.  The moment of truth.  The positioning was over and the squishing began.  And you know what?

It was no big deal.

Even though the Squisher In Chief was there for extra thoroughness, and even though I’m a wimp, and even though (I’ll be honest) I’ve had thicker pancakes than that…IT WAS NO BIG DEAL.   The squishing was tight, but there was no pain.

They squished me four times (two on each side), and none of them hurt.  The entire process, even with the extra training The Chief was doing, was done in under ten minutes. 

When it was over, and I was straightening my lovely poncho, I told The Chief that I was a blogger, and I’d probably write about this.  What, I asked her, is the one thing she’d like women to know about their breast health?

She didn’t hesitate.  "Tell them not to depend on just a mammogram or just a self-exam.  The process is three-fold:  they must have mammograms and BSEs and have manual clinical exams by a doctor.  There are some tumors we can feel but can’t see.  There are some tumors we can see but can’t feel.  You must take control of your health and do all three, faithfully."

And there you have it, straight from The Chief.  And I’m vouching for her, because she and I are verrrry intimate.

She went on to tell me that she had scanned women who were having their first mammogram in their 80’s, because they had been too frightened to come in earlier.  And I’m telling you, that is just a shame, because there is nothing to fear about a mammogram.  Breast cancer would be way scarier than a little squish.

Call your doctor or health insurance company to find out what your options are, even if you’re under 40.  If you don’t have health insurance, Google "free mammogram" or call your local hospital to ask what resources are available. 

Be strong.  Be squished.

{cross-posted at BlogHer}

Posted in: Fun

117 thoughts on “A Very Squishy Public Service Announcement

  1. Judy says:

    I’m going in for mine in February – I’ll be 40. The squishing will probably be the most intimate experience my breasts have had in the past 8 years! HAHA
    THANK YOU for writing about such a positive experience!

  2. susieshomemade says:

    My mom is a breast cancer survivor so, I got my first at 30. We are also getting genetic tests to see if she carries the “breast cancer” gene. Keep your fingers crossed for me and my girls (and my children)Hee, hee, hee:-)

  3. Annie H says:

    What a great post….I’m only 30, but fully intend on starting mine at 40(or before). I believe everyone should take charge of their health, and stay on top of things

  4. Diane says:

    I’ve never found it to be a big deal, though I’m…er…amply endowed, so it’s easy to get the girls on the plates – though a bit harder to get them to pancake thickness. It is well worth the discomfort to know you are taking charge of your health, being proactive rather than reactive.

  5. Wendy says:

    Yeah Shannon!
    You are so right – mammograms do not hurt and are so vital to your health. I have have too many to remember and I am 39. I have had two biopsies and they were both negative (Praise the Lord) I am thankful that my MD suggested I start early. Even though nothing is funky now, I’m going every 6 months to ensure things stay that way. Thanks for posting such a great message.

  6. Mandi says:

    Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Let’s see… I’m 24 – almost 25. So that gives me a good 15 years to work up the nerve? And that’s if I wait til I’m 40! Yikes! I of course would do it, no question, for the importance of it… but YEOWZA I’m not looking forward to it! Thanks for sharing your experience though! Glad to hear it wasn’t painful!

  7. Megan says:

    Good to know, Shannon. Later this month I will reach the age at which I will officially be considered at “Advanced Maternal Age” if indeed I were to do any more maternaling. Which I’m not saying I’m opposed to, but it’s near nigh impossible once your husband has been to the vet and all that.
    Okay, where was I going with all that? Anyway, I was just thinking today that I was probably about due for one of those sometime soon. Thanks for being frank.

  8. Ali says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m 28, and no offense, but my first mammo seems forever away. But like watching my son grow up, it will be here before I know it. And who knows, maybe by the time I visit the squisher it will simply consist of walking through a metal (or tumor) detector. Wouldn’t that be nifty?!

  9. erica m says:

    I’m just 24, so I don’t have to worry about this for a while, but I did get a good laugh and am happy to know it’s not something I have to dread. πŸ™‚
    You really ought to do the copywriting for all their advertising… hehe

  10. Jennifer M. says:

    I’m 28 and had to have a lump removed from one of my breasts back in september. i had a mammogram AFTER a biopsy so my experience was slightly more painful on the side where the biopsy was done… BUT on the NON-biopsy side, it was very pain free.
    And let me tell you… I completely understand your intimate relationship with the “SIC”. the squisher I had was excellent!
    So now i’m looking at regular mammograms every year from here on out… πŸ™‚

  11. Normal to Natalie says:

    I plan to talk to my doctor to see about getting one done soon. I have a friend that just went to be with Jesus at the young age of 33 because of breast cancer. Very well written post…I hope many take your advice and take control of their health!

  12. Terry says:

    I went today–not as much pink, and only one tech, but otherwise very similar. It really is no big deal. Good job encouraging others to get it done!

  13. Princess Leia says:

    I had my first mammogram at the tender age of 23. No history of BC (or really any cancer) in my family, but definite lumpage (which was later found to be thankfully benign).
    I agree that the experience was far more comfortable than I had anticipated. The only pain I felt was from the lump, and that was mainly because it was way on the side about as close to my armpit as it could get without being _in_ it. It was a “little” hard to get it into view and it was painful just in general.
    But the mammogram itself was about as relaxing as any medical test could be.
    If you find a lump at some point in your life, and especially if you are young and/or have not carried a pregnancy to term (your breasts don’t fully mature until you’ve birthed/nursed a baby) I would also recommend a breast sonogram. No radiation, no squishing, and lots of (warmed!) moisturizing goo! πŸ™‚

  14. Staci at Writing and Living says:

    Thanks, Shannon. I’ve been having a little blog party today for my mom’s 70th birthday. It’s also her fifth birthday, because it was five years ago today that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a fast-growing cancer, so her mammogram saved her life. Early detection.

  15. Jenn says:

    I want to add a bit of wisdom from my first experience with a mammogram at 36. Now I have had three friends with breast cancer, all around my age. One of them was more of a friend of a friend, but it was still a shock when she died.
    Needless to say, I was eager to allow the Squisher (I only had one because I am not a famous blogger) do whatever it took to get the best possible data. They found ‘something’ on the first mammogram and I was referred for a followup with the reassurance that it was a routine precaution, etc etc. I had a followup mammogram and an ultrasound and everything really was a-OK. I cannot tell you how good I feel about having followed the process to its completion.
    At the end, after I had been given the double-green light, the Squisher told me that it is actually quite common for women getting their first mammogram to be referred for a followup because there is no baseline data.
    Don’t be afraid. Promise yourself chocolate – and live!

  16. Erin says:

    “And I also thought that I would’ve enjoyed a Sonic gift card a lot more.”
    I was laughing out loud even before your hilarious description of the entire mammogram process. Thanks for being honest about it, sometimes it takes someone who has been there to tell you what things are really like to take away the fear.
    love your blog! Erin

  17. sarah says:

    This is such an important topic. My sweet sister-in-law went for a baseline mammogram in September at the age of 35, and calcifications were found and biopsied and they turned out to be cancerous. She had no palpable lumps. She is the mom to two little boys, ages 3 and 6. She has since had a lumpectomy and begins radiation next week. I am so thankful that she was proactive and went for a mammogram sooner than later- I shudder to think what she would have to endure if she had waited just a year or two for this important screening. By the way, she has no family jistory of breast cancer. Be proactive!

  18. Tonggu Momma says:

    Please, everyone, go get squished.
    We lost Rosie to breast cancer less than a month ago. She was our next-door neighbor, my close friend, a wife and a momma to six-year-old twins.
    Go get squished, y’all.

  19. Andrea Frederick says:

    I have to tell you…I’ve had a mammogram and I’m 28. I have a strong family history of breast cancer. What’s with the poncho. They have you drap it over you (for modesty) AND then throw it over your shoulder. Let’s just skip that step and get on with the show! Also, I was very appreciative that it was VERY warm in there…for no “perkiness.” If you know what I mean?

  20. kelli says:

    That was a great account. I had my first Squishing to get on the transplant list in 06. Of course, I didn’t get the correlation betwwen the pancakes and the kidney surgery, but heck! whatever. I’m in.
    I’ve now had three, and love to watch the looks on the faces of the first timers each time.
    Sad, but true. Been there, done that, gone out shopping afterwards with the n*pple st*ckers.
    hehe

  21. Bailey's Leaf says:

    I was told by my gynecologist that the 35th birthday gift that she was giving me was a mammogram. I’ll be having mine on Nov 17. Thank you so much for this blog entry. It helped a bit more than you know.

  22. aquamarine says:

    I have to say this has been one of your finest and informative posts to date. I will no longer be able to walk past the color pink without thinking Squisher in Chief. By the way, I am glad that I was not partaking of any beverages while at my keyboard reading this. It would have been total annihilation.

  23. Marla Taviano says:

    I’ve never seen one of the popcorn squisher-poppers in person, but I really don’t know how you could do a mammogram on someone as UN-endowed as me. (Both of my boobies could fit comfortably in a single A cup.)
    I’d be interested to know if anyone in the no-cleavage crowd has had a successful mammogram and would like to share her story.
    πŸ™‚

  24. Jamie says:

    I had my first mammogram this year and it didn’t hurt like I thought it would. I do have to say though that within weeks of my mammogram, my size DDs became slinkies. Kinda sad, but I guess knowing my slinkies are cancerless, I guess that is a good thing.
    Two Size DD Slinkies…

  25. Kayren says:

    My mom’s a breast cancer suvivor now for almost 10 years, and I had to have my first mammogram done in my mid-30’s because of her diagnosis. You’re right. It really was no big deal. The squishing is not necessarily comfortable but it does not hurt. I think it’s great that you shared this with all the women out there.

  26. Kathy/IL says:

    And you know what? Even if the squishing did involve some pain, what’s a little pain when it can save your life? My baby sister is a breast cancer survivor (found a non-palpable lump during her baseline mammogram), I lost two aunts to the dreaded disease, and I’ve had to have a benign lump removed. So, even if it were very painful, I’d still have a mammogram.

  27. TRS says:

    So… I wonder what it takes to swish boobies that are virtually pancakes to begin with?
    How do you suppose they flatten something less than an A cup?
    I’ve always wondered about that… and in my blissful ignorance – I assume that God wouldn’t let a woman without boobs get breast cancer. But that’s probably the wrong approach!

  28. K says:

    We were one of those families who had no family history. We do now… A year ago, I think it was around Nov 20th, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had avoided mammograms, and it was in both sides. There were so many questions. (Could it have been caught sooner??) We thought our good family history kept us somewhat safe. Scary thing. It didn’t. Now a year later, she’s done with treatment and feeling somewhat back to normal. I’m so thankful for that.
    Thanks for sharing the real deal on this. To be honest, I had been nervous about this. I just turned 27 and the doctors recommended I get a baseline at 30. I was planning on it, but very nervous about the stories I have heard… Thanks for the encouragement.

  29. PollyS says:

    Last month I went to the Mamovan! It is a free service in our state where an RV is loaded with the squisher devices and comes around different towns for free squishes. Sorry, but mine was painful. But not nearly as painful as cancer. So I’ll gladly do it again and again and again…

  30. Tater Mama says:

    I had my first mammogram last year at age 38. I had to go back for another one, which is pretty common with your first one because they have nothing to compare it to. Everything was fine, as whatever showed up on the first one had disappeared by the time I went back for the second.
    I was surprised at how painless the whole experience was after having heard the horror stories.
    Plus, it’s hard to complain about a little squishing and tugging when you know that it can help save your life.

  31. Colleen says:

    Thanks for this post! I’m heading in for my first squishing at the age of 39. I was told by my doctor to start at age 40, but my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. I’m not waiting. No one wants to find out they have breast cancer. But no one wants to find out that a mammogram could have detected that breast cancer at an earlier stage, which would have meant for better prognosis.
    GO GET SQUISHED GIRLS!

  32. Paula says:

    I got my first at 31. History of breast cancer on my mom’s side(she passed away 2 years ago from BC). Before my first appointment on phone, the receptionist questioned my age and made a comment that typically women don’t start getting mammograms until 40. I was a bit annoyed, especially since my Dr agreed that it would be a good idea to get a questionable lump checked out.
    Then the tech who did my squashing said “the doctor will review your films and he will probably have you come back in 5 years.” OK? So the Dr. came in and asked me to come back in 1 year to get a baseline.
    I was surprised that I encountered this. This was only 2-3 years ago. Maybe things have changed, but with all the attention breast cancer gets, I would think I would have received a more sensitive response.

  33. Teresa says:

    Great post! I just had my second mamogram done last year, when I was 30. I had my first when I was 16 and had a breast reduction. I just felt it necessary to have a “baseline” at 30 since I had work done, so to speak. It was no big deal and it felt pretty empowering to have it done. It’s nice to take control of your health!

  34. susan says:

    Mammograms have improved greatly!!!!
    My first was at 16 yrs old! 25 yrs ago!!
    Stripped to the waist and pinned to a machine in a large room while the technician had to go out and take each “picture.” I had visions of a hospital fire and me not being able to get out of the machine or find my shirt.
    They’ve come a long way – for which I’m thankful. Mammograms shouldn’t be scary – it’s the wondering if you don’t get them that’s scary.
    Loved the post.

  35. Teri from Indiana says:

    Great post! My family has a big history of breast cancer and trust me, I get mine flattened. I have lost my grandmother, an aunt, a cousin and have had two other cousins and another aunt survive the disease.
    This year was a little scary though. They found “shadowing”, which lead to an ultra sound, which lead to an MRI, which lead to the discovery I am not good in tight spaces and throw up. So I had to go back, drugged out of my mind. 4 Valiums in 30 minutes can be your best friend.
    Ladies, not all cancers come in lumps. There is a deadly scary type called Inflammatory Breast Cancer that forms in sheets. Any concerns with itching, swelling or any changes in your breast…..get it checked out! It was only after my doctor told me that this what they were trying to rule out, did I agree to the second MRI. It’s the only way that IBC can be detected. BTW, I’m cancer free! It seems I have “dense tissue” that is causing the shadowing. Nice way to say that even my breasts have a weight issue.

  36. Jenny says:

    What a great post! Thank you!
    I get a card every year from my insurance company. It says something like, “Happy Birthday!” on the front…and “Are you sure you have enough life insurance?” on the inside.
    Nice.

  37. Georgia Mom says:

    Thanks for this post. I turned 40 this past summer. I got bifocals and my prescription for a mammogram. Yeah, for me! I have my first mammogram scheduled for December. I’ve had it scheduled 2 other times, but successfully found reasons to get out of those appt. But, I’m going to keep that appt. in December and get this over with. I know it’s important and I will do it, but just like my yearly GYN appt. I’m not looking forward to it. But, thanks to you I won’t dread it either!

  38. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings says:

    Got my first one 2 months ago and didn’t understand what the big deal was. After nursing the Vikings and surviving their pulling, poking, biting, and exposing me to the world and then some as I nursed them, a mammogram was a walk in the park! LOL
    And, after losing my bro-in-law to lung cancer and watching my mom and sis-in-law survive melanoma and leukemia respectively, it is a whole lot easier than the alternative.
    So, count me as another vote for – “it’s no big deal – JUST DO IT!”

  39. Jennifer says:

    This was excellent! I have not had one yet. I am under forty (barely) and my doctor doesn’t order them until 40 unless there is a history. I love being educated it really makes things “less scary” so thank you for doing this post.
    Smiles!

  40. AmyG says:

    Thank you for posting this. I need to have my first one done, but have no insurance. I didn’t realize there was a way to get a free one. Thank you!

  41. fern says:

    I am almost 50 and by now have had plenty of mammograms. For me, they hurt-even on the new machines. But I don’t care. I figure a few minutes of awkwardness and a few seconds (that is right, only seconds) of a little pain, is not nearly as bad as the pain of cancer.
    My cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer last week. Ladies–go get squished, and be proud of it! And tell your daughters. This is not something that should be whispered about.
    We should have stickers, like the “I voted” stickers. I want one that says “I was squished today”

  42. Mary B says:

    I am 38. I personally have had 4 mammograms. Thankyou for saying they aren’t as bad as everyone says πŸ™‚
    My mom passed away from breast cancer at age 28, I was 7 months old. Its the least I can do for my two daughters. I am prayerfully considering genetic testing due to the fact that her mother and sister both had mastectomies.
    Thank you for your PSA πŸ™‚

  43. LuAnn says:

    I am 40 and I have been “squished” three times. The second time they saw a shadow and ordered a diagnostic “squish”. Everything was fine.
    I expect to have one every year because my grandmother and aunt had breast cancer. A little discomfort is well worth it if it saves your life.
    Thanks Shannon for another great post!

  44. Heather G says:

    So glad you shared your experience! I had my first one at 17. Yep, 17. Found a lump that needed to be removed. Thankfully it wasn’t cancer. But I’ve had a few other mammograms over the last 16 years just to make sure things were okay.
    The scariest one was shortly after a friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer at 25.
    Bottom line you are never too young so do your BSEs, have your doctor check, and if things ever feel off follow up!

  45. Kristine says:

    Thanks for your great, honest post. A very good friend of mine was just diagnosed with breast cancer last week, and she’s only 27. She found it through a self-exam, so I am now completely convinced of the importance of those, and when my time comes, I’ll be in for squishing.

  46. Kay says:

    Great post! I had my annual squish recently. It has come a long way technology wise since I got my first one at 35. (43 now *sigh*) It was all digital and they didn’t have to replace films like in an xray this time. It was fast and easy.. which I complimented them on as I was leaving. A little painful.. not nothing to keep me from having it done again!

  47. Redneck Diva says:

    Thank you for the humor and the honesty. My sister found a lump in her breast last year and after a rather hastily-scheduled appointment with her doctor who said “I really think it’s nothing, but let’s not take any chances” my baby sister had a mammogram at age 30.
    I worried about her all morning, wondering if I was going to have to introduce her from then on as “My sister with the flat boobs” because I’d heard so many scary things about the dreaded “squisher” as you put it. She called me on her way to her car and said, “I really think mammograms are getting a bad rap. There was NOTHING bad about this experience!” And then she pretty much said what you said about pancakes and squishing but no pain. And I breathed a sigh of relief that my sister was not permanently the owner of two flat breasts.
    If more women could tell their friends about mammograms with humor and honesty, like you have, what a wonderful world it would be. Now I feel like bursting into song…
    Thanks, Shannon.

  48. Kati says:

    I am not to the age of having this done yet, but I do thank you for your honest evaluation of the process. It was fun to read but also informative! Thanks again-I love reading your blog.

  49. Melissa says:

    I have to come out of lurkdom about this. I had my first mammogram in Feb. at 33. My mom died of extremely aggressive breast cancer a few years ago, so it was very important to have an early baseline. It was no big deal (physically) for me. The SIC actually told me “you should feel pressure, but not pain”. According to my experience and what all the women I’ve discussed it with say, the key to having a good experience is to go to a Women’s Health Clinic or Cancer Center or something, not any old hospital radiology center, and certainly not a mobile mammography van.
    Also, I have to second what the SIC told you, you must do self-exam and see your doctor yearly for an exam, in addition to mammography. My mother’s tumor was 10 centimeters when they found it (which is huge!) They still couldn’t see it on her mammogram. Be proactive ladies, it is scary, but not as scary as the alternative.

  50. Jungle Mom says:

    As a woman who has had a lumpectomy at the tender age of 32, I do hope people heed this.
    I would also like to say that as delightful as your experience was, you should try getting a mammogram in a third world country. They must have all the OLD machines no longer used in the US. I’m talking hand cranked metal presses!!!! and I live in a country where a 34B would be large…I am a DD! As you say, this thing must be handled and by the squisher in chief. They never seem to know what to do with all of me…

  51. Lynnet says:

    This was great! Thanks for posting this. I got my first squishing when I was 40, right after a good friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. We’ve now had four friends diagnosed with it and each are survivors! I really put it off because of all the horror stories.I’m a little put off because I didn’t get the whole PINK treatment! On Air 1 radio they talk about wearing pink on Fridays for Breast Cancer Awareness.

  52. Jane says:

    Had my baseline done last December at 36. Have to agree, the mammogram itself was really not all I had worried about it being.
    Some of the resulting additional testing because I had calcifications, however, was not much fun. Final step: bi-lateral lumpectomies with needle localization on Jan. 2nd (happy new year!). They goofed on the needle loc the first time, so we had another round trip from the OR to radiology. I felt like a pin cushion by the time they were done.
    I also had lots of milk lingering around – despite last child being weaned 6 months earlier – which made things, umm, interesting. Thankfully, the results were benign and we’re just watching closely for possible future issues. The holiday season last year was pretty stressful worrying about the “what if’s,” but worth it to know that I’m doing what I can for preventative health care.

  53. Heather says:

    That is so funny because I had my first mammogram yesterday. I am 35 and my doctor also told me they would like to do a baseline one now to have something to compare it to when I turn 40. It really wasn’t that bad. I only had one tech luckily. Also the place I went does a variety of other tests so only the tech doing the squishing had the pretty pink room. They also let me put my own stickers on. I brought them home to show my husband, yeah I am weird like that

  54. Amanda says:

    Excellent post, excellent reminder. I’ve been toying with the idea of having on done, though I’m in my early thirties. My OB found a couple of cysts at my last annual, and while he didn’t send me for a breast check, those cysts have plagued me since. The fear of the mammo (particularly since my OB didn’t order one) has kept me away. I think I’ll get the ball rolling now, thanks to your post.

  55. Runningamuck says:

    Great post! My family has a history of breast cancer (both sides) and since I’m now 33, I know my first squish-test is looming in the near future. But after reading your post, I’m not so worried about it. And you’re so right (go ahead and print that several times to post around the house, one can never hear that sentence enough, lol), breast cancer is much more scary than a few minutes of major squishing.
    Thanks. A ton.

  56. Pam at BeyondJustMom says:

    Thanks Shannon-what an accurate description! I had my first last month, and I did get called back the next day for another view. It was quite scary for me, but turned out to be fine.
    I’d like to assure folks that it’s not uncommon to be called back, and most turn out okay.
    Another thing: I know some women who schedule their mammograms together and go out to lunch afterwards. They call it “lunch and crunch”. What a fun way to make the squish something to look forward to!

  57. Laurie says:

    Just had my annual check up two days ago and was told to get a baseline mammogram (I’m 34) because of my fibrocystic breasts.
    I haven’t actually scheduled it yet and was feeling a little nervous about it – now I’m not and I thank you for that.

  58. Laura Caldwell says:

    I received a similar missive, went, and the mammogram and follow-up sonogram revealed a “mass.” I’m headed to a Breast Cancer Clinic for further evaluation on 12/4. Thanks for getting the word out!

  59. Ann G says:

    AMEN!! Thanks for sharing that with the world! I went for myy first one when I was 36 and I have breast cancer in my family so I was a little more nervous than I should have been, but as you said a little squishing is definitely better than breast cancer. I’ve only had to go in once for a redo–and it turned out to be no biggie, too. I wouldn’t miss those annual appointments for anything now! Go Now, if you haven’t done so.

  60. SheilaG says:

    I’ve been squished for ten years now (and I’m only 38) because my Mom had breast cancer young.
    It really isn’t that bad, but this is one of those few times that I’m glad I’m an A cup!
    For those of you who have never had one, I’ve heard that the best way to prepare is to walk topless down to your kitchen. Open your fridge door. Insert one breast. Now slam the fridge door as hard as possible and have your husband come downstairs and push it closed for at least a minute. There. Now remember, that’s pressure, not pain!
    But you know what, it only hurts at the time, and then you can feel a lot of relief knowing that you’re cancer free!
    Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

  61. happyvalleygirl says:

    Shannon, thank you. I am 48 and have never had one, although my insurance will pay for one every year. I scheduled one once and on the morning that I was supposed to go, I read the paper that they had sent me telling me to not eat and do all the things I had done that week, so I cancelled it–I was looking for an excuse. I have been thinking that I need to go have it done and your post has put me over the edge. I will call as soon as my period is over!

  62. Lori says:

    Very good description!!! I had my first last spring at age 38, and it wasn’t that big of a deal, though me “Squisher” wasn’t nearly so nice as you described.

  63. Kelly says:

    Great public service announcement and very entertaining! And accurate! I had my first mamogram at 38 due to severe endometriosis, and my grandmother had breast cancer. Since then, my mom has had breast cancer and my 21 year old daughter will probably start having mammograms before she’s 30. Better be safe than sorry.

  64. Christina says:

    The last time I got my mammogram, I booked into a mobile one that was at my gym for a week. I thought how handy.
    Once I showed up for the appointment however, I discovered that they had set themselves up in a changeroom that had mirrors on every wall. So, I not only had to experience the squishing (I agree, it’s a little intimate and uncomfortable, but not painful), I got a very thorough 360 degree view of the process under flourescent lighting.
    Lovely.
    But important.

  65. Jill says:

    So true – and I am sure this will be so helpful to many. I got my first earlier this year and was surprised that the squishing really produced minimal (if any) real pain.

  66. Melissa says:

    I am 33 and I have had 2 mammograms. I lost my mother 11 1/2 years ago to breast cancer, and her breast doctor recommended that I start getting mammograms every 5 years starting at 25. Fortunately, my ob/gyn has been very eager to follow that advice and set up the mammograms so that insurance would cover the costs. I would probably get them regardless. They are not painful and they can save your life. My mom put off her mammogram several months because she was out of state, and she found her first lump before her rescheduled appointment. I always wonder what could have happened. . .
    Please, everyone, get squished!!! You are worth it!!!

  67. Dawn says:

    I came across your blog on my sisters blog and I’m glad I did. There is a history in my family and it’s been 2 years since my last visit. Thanks for reminding me and giving me a laugh at the same time. Geart post!

  68. Robin says:

    This is a FABULOUS post! Thanks so much for giving us all the inside info (and you’re so stinkin’ funny too!). I think I’ll go ahead and start the process of making an appointment now. I turned 36 this year and haven’t done one yet. Now it doesn’t seem so scary.
    :0)
    ~robin

  69. Carey says:

    You are just such a riot! What a great post! I’m 36 myself. At my last GYN visit, when I was still 35, I asked my doctor whether it was time for a mammogram. He told me that since I have no family history, I can wait until 40. I trust him completely – he’s been my doctor for 15 years and delivered my daughter – but it has haunted me ever since. I think at my next visit, I’ll demand a referral. I’ll sleep better at night.

  70. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. Honestly, I probably have 15 years until my first one, but it’s encouraging none-the-less. I don’t believe people when they say “it’s only a tiny bit uncomfortable” about a doctors appointment. Not after having the OTHER examination done, if you know what I mean. That was a BIT more than slightly uncomfortable. Hopefully a squishing is not as bad!

  71. laska says:

    My dr gave me my written orders last month (I turned 36, too). My friend told me it was no big deal, but I still have it in my things to do pile. I guess I’d better bite the bullet and schedule that and my dental exam…

  72. Callista says:

    Thanks for the honesty although you’ve still got me a little scared. I’m 25 so haven’t gone through this yet but my mom didn’t like it much (well I guess no one LIKES it) I love your writing style and you should send a link to this post along to the “chief”

  73. Pam says:

    I have never found it to be very painful either uncomfortable for a second or two but NOT painful…..I have been told that it is OK to take a couple of ibproben (sp) a couple of hours before if your breasts are tender.

  74. Caron says:

    I had my first at age 35 just after I stopped breastfeeding. Ask your gyno, but I would recommend waiting about 6 months from weaning to get a routine mammogram. I went just a month or so after I stopped and they ended up doing a biopsy because of some calcifications. Turned out to be calcified milk. It was NOT fun. 😦

  75. Kim says:

    I am in tears of laughter reading this! I had heard so many horror stories from my Mom about these, but really I’ve had 4 and they are NO BIG DEAL. Love your blog!

  76. Linda says:

    Good for you, Shannon!! I love the positive attitude you portrayed. I will admit – I hate mammograms and for me, they hurt like heck. I’ve tried pre-aspirin to dull the pain, but it really doesn’t work. However, and this is a big however, I am never, never sorry that I got one done.
    When I was 33 I found out I had breast cancer. I ended up having a mastectomy, radiation, and chemo. My cancer was very quick growing and was fed by estrogen. The doctor didn’t give me long to live. God is in charge of all that though. It’s been 23 years, and I was able to see my baby grow up, which I praise God for.
    I sincerely hope all you young girls get those mammograms and increase your chances of being there for all your loved ones – hubbies, children, and grand-babies!

  77. k&c's mom says:

    OK: they definitely must have a new machine in your neck-o-the-woods. I’m pretty sure the last machine used on me was a garage door closer in its former life. Any idea what the name of your machine was called? I may be shopping for a new gyno based on that little snippet of information…

  78. Jenny says:

    I’ll be 35 in the spring. I suppose it’s about time to start thinking about mammograms. Thanks for sharing your experience. It doesn’t sound too scary after hearing your account.

  79. momstheword says:

    Great post! It didn’t hurt me either. I just figured with having nursed two kids, they’d been bitten, stepped on, poked, pulled, pushed, prodded, threw up on, and whatever else kids will do when you’re nursing a baby or wrestling a preschooler. I had my baseline at 36 (I am now 50). I space my mammo and my dr. exam six months apart so that only six months go by and then they’re being checked again….that way they get checked twice a year.

  80. Netherfieldmom says:

    I went from mammo to ultrasound to biopsy to MRI to mastectomy/reconstruction in less than 60 days. My cancer didn’t form a lump either. No doctor could feel it, even the breast surgeon AFTER the biopsy. It ended up being 2.7 cm, with a 4mm site next to it, also cancerous, called lobular cancer, which is more thickening than tumerous. STAY CURRENT on your exams and you know what–the surgery isn’t really that bad. Take heart!

  81. The Diaper Diaries says:

    There is breast and ovarian cancer on many branches of the family tree so at 33 I have actually already had a few mammograms and could not agree more with your assessment. I worried so much about it and hello? No biggie at all.
    Now I have even had a lump removed which was fine, but also no big deal. So take care of your boobies ladies. We need not fear the things we need to do to make sure we are healthy.
    P.S. Don’t ever let anyone tell you all 3 aren’t important. I have heard several reports lately that BSE aren’t important even by doctors. My mom had a mammogram 6 months before she found her cancerous lump. The mammogram missed it because it was high up on her breast. DO ALL THREE!!

  82. angie says:

    i do not like being squished. it HURTS! and i mean it HURTS! big time. i am not a wimp, yet every year i leave not sure if i will go back. i will, but i think about it long and hard.

  83. Nancy says:

    Thank you for your story. My mother, her sister, my sister and I have all been treated for breast cancer. My mother was the first diagnosed 20 years ago and I was diagnosed in January of this year. I still find women afraid to get mammograms. Your experience tells it quite accurately and hopefully it will encourage more women to have it done.
    Thank you

  84. Mommy, the Human Napkin says:

    Honestly, I think the extra people in the room would have been a deal-breaker for me. I am way too modest (my husband calls it “prude,” but whatever).
    My mom has given me the horror stories about her mammograms – they hurt so bad she cries every time. I have also apparently inherited her inclination for serious breast tenderness 24/7, so there is no “least tender” moment for me. So I am sufficiently freaked out about having my first one in several years.

  85. CJ says:

    I had my first one last year. Wish I would have read something like this before I went, I would have been a lot less hesitant! You’re right, it wasn’t that bad! Not the most pleasant way to spend 15 minutes but it was over quickly and didn’t hurt. I had mine done in a mammogram van in a grocery store parking lot, sponsored by a local hospital, insurance paid for it all. Very convenient!

  86. Gego says:

    A Mother’s wisdom is incredible to pass on to a daughter, daughter-in-law, or Granddaughter. Is a mammogram painful? That depends upon where you go. I have NEVER had one that hurt or left bruises.
    Once gravity takes over, mammograms are easy, and should be repeated yearly.
    If you have given birth to a kidlet, a mammogram is NOTHING, no matter what you have heard. The benefits far outweigh your modesty or the $$$ to pay for it. Most insurance companies cover the cost and if yours doesn’t, tell the clinic and ask where you can go for free.
    Prevent the disease in you, whether or not there is a family history. TEACH YOUR DAUGHTERS THAT THIS IS NOTHING TO FEAR!!!!!! GREAT POST SHANNON, THANK YOU!
    “Tell from Indiana”, I am so proud of you. Keep up the follow-ups so you have peace of mind that you can pass on to other women.
    The Susan B. Komen website has oodles of info about breast cancer.
    Husbands: Teach them what to look for (not that intimacy should become a medical evaluation), to help open communication about prostate cancer. Most men don’t have a clue except for more frequent urination.
    Thank you again, Shannon, you eliminated a lot of fear today! Now, the attire at my is a hospital gown. I would draw the line at flowers.
    Gego

  87. Muddy says:

    I had my first mammogram this past spring. My insurance company would not cover it until I was forty-and then I pushed the envelope a bit more and waited until I was 41. Because they are tracking something they saw, I go back for a follow up in two weeks. All looked fine they said-but likewise-it is what having a baseline is all about-learning what exactly is “normal” for your particular breasts as they rule out things that should not be there. After my first mammogram, I posted about it too-it seemed too important of an occassion as a woman to let it pass without a blog entry. Thanks for sharing your experience too.

  88. Elizabeth says:

    What a wonderful post. I am 27 and had a lumpectomy in Sept. At first I thought it was a clogged milk duct, but when it didn’t go away after three weeks, my husband told me to go get it checked. I called the ob/gyn and explained about the lump. They sent me directly to the breast surgeon w/out seeing me. When I called the breast surgeon, at first they wanted me to have a mammogram, but when I told them how long I’d had the lump and how big it had grown, they told me to come in the next morning. I told the surgeon that he wouldn’t need to do a BSE, you could see the lump. He didn’t believe me. As soon as he walked thru the door, I took off the scrub vest and his face blanched. He scheduled me for surgery first thing the next morning. That was Thursday and I had to wait until Monday afternoon for the radiologist’s report. It came back negative. I had the most benign breast tumor a person can have. It will come back and will have to be removed again, but thank God that there were no markers for future breast cancer. Anyway, the moral is don’t wait to get it checked out. My surgeon’s initial diagnosis was 99% chance of it being a malignant cancer. If it had been malignant, with the same rate of growth,and I hadn’t had it checked out, I would not have lived to see my youngest’s first birthday in March of next year.

  89. Ronda says:

    Great post! You are so lucky, girl. My mammo squisher plates are always, always, always cold. And the squisher-lady does make it squish tight. While it may not hurt per-se like maybe a broken bone, it doesn’t feel “good” either! I’m at the point where I get one done annually.
    Thanks for a lovely post. Really, ladies, there’s nothing to fear from a mammogram!

  90. Rena Gunther says:

    Crackin’ me up! But I can certainly vouch for your vouching.
    I’m 39 and had my first mammogram at 28. I had verrrry large breasts at one time. I was afraid. VERRRYY afraid! But it wasn’t so bad. I was more concerned with the lump in question. Especially after being sent for a sonogram. That wasn’t so bad either. I remember my Mom praying her heart out. The results: “It’s gone! Maybe we squished it out!”
    I had a breast reduction in ’03. Before my first mammogram after my reduction I was anxious because I was so used to my larger um, bosoms being squished. All was well, though. Not so bad. In fact, I’d say that my husband rolling over my pre-reduction breasts when they were more of a 34 long, was much worse.
    Sorry to be so detailed…how could I not be? And seriously, that’s what they were…long…straight from the mouth of a babe…”Aunt Rena, you have realllly loooonnngg boobs!”
    Thanks, kid. Think it’s time for that reduction! πŸ˜‰
    Rena Gunther

  91. auntie says:

    i just started reading your blog, very good stuff!
    i had to have a mammogram about 3 years when I was 33 years old, and while i wasn’t really scared i was not looking forward to The Squishing because i have dense (read: BIG) breasts but it was so not as awful as i thought it would be! slightly uncomfortable perhaps, especially when the lady was trying to stuff as much of my armpit in there as she could, but definitely no pain. and i totally wanted to steal the little white, comfy robe i got to wear! πŸ™‚

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