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The 40-Plus Club I Never Knew I Wanted to Join

Article-The 40-Plus Club I Never Knew I Wanted to Join

Quote graphic for Pedersen's POV, a weekly op-ed column by MD+DI Senior Editor Amanda Pedersen
Breast cancer screenings are the one to-do list item our senior editor won’t put off. From now on, that is.

I am the worst at putting things off – expense reports, household chores, and absolutely anything that requires a visit to the DMV.

So, why should my first mammogram be any different?

I turned 40 during the pandemic, so I had plenty of excuses for putting it off. But at the end of the day, they were just that – excuses.

Because I know – I know – how important mammograms are, especially for someone with a family history of breast cancer. I’ve written countless articles over the years about mammography playing a critical roll in early breast cancer detection. And still I put it off for two years.

Voluntarily getting my boobs flattened between two plates just didn’t sound like a good time to me. I still remember my mom coming home after her first mammogram and talking about how much it hurt. Even my doctor warned me that it would be painful, and recommended I take Tylenol and an anxiety pill before the appointment.

And then, of course, there’s the fear that the screening will reveal something suspicious, requiring further testing. You would think the fear of breast cancer would make women get screened sooner, but for many of us it just makes it that much harder.

So, by the time the technologist retrieved me from the waiting room, I was expecting the worst. In fact, when she politely asked how I was doing, I didn’t miss a beat.

“Terrified,” I told her.

The technologist tried to stifle a laugh, shot me a knowing look, and asked, “First time?”

The first thing I noticed in the mammography exam room at OSF St. Mary Medical Center was the Hologic Selenia Dimension system. I didn’t even know that mattered to me until I saw the Hologic logo and felt myself relax. Just knowing that my breast cancer screening would be performed using 3D mammography technology developed by a leading women’s health company made me feel more confident and at ease. After all, if it’s good enough for Mary J. Blige, it’s good enough for me.

The worst part of the screening, for me, was having to hold my breath when the technologist took the images. And, for some reason, the compression on my left breast was more uncomfortable than my right. But all in all, it wasn’t that bad.

While I don’t have anything to compare it to, I do believe that Hologic’s MammoPad breast cushion helped a lot with the discomfort factor.

Image courtesy of HologicHologic MammoPad.png

Ordinarily, I would have asked the technologist all sorts of questions during the exam, but I tend to make awkward situations even more awkward, so I made a point of keeping quiet. One of my managers had no qualms about interrogating the technologist during her recent mammogram, however. When she asked how they manage to image extremely flat-chested women, the technologist pulled out a spatula. Yep, just an ordinary kitchen spatula, and she said the technologist swears it’s the best tool she has for those situations.

What nobody told me about mammograms was how empowering it would feel afterward, knowing that I did something proactive for my health. And there is something to be said for knowing that I’ve joined millions of other women who have been screened for breast cancer. It feels like I’ve learned the secret handshake to a 40-plus club I never knew I wanted to be in.

There will always be tasks on my to-do list that I put off doing until the last minute. But from now on, getting my annual breast cancer screening won’t be one of them. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my vehicle registration expired a while back. Yeah, maybe next year.

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