AN OPEN LETTER TO DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, AND MEDICAL ASSOCIATIONS:
There are two words no woman wants to hear after a mammogram: They found . . .Yet I got a call with those two words three days after my mammogram. Not from my doctor or a radiologist, but from a hesitant stranger. Something about finding a density. And a letter telling me to consult my own doctor. I was too stunned to ask his nurse the right question.
Back to the hospital after a frightened weekend. Long intake, waiting. It was not until I was in the filming room with the terribly young tech that I found out all breast tissue is of two kinds. And she seemed to be saying that one kind is more dense! In fact, nothing bad had been found! Older breasts, it seems, get folded or otherwise make it hard to see all their tissue. Why in the world didn't they train the woman who phoned to tell me they just didn't have enough pictures to see the whole breast!!! That whole weekend would have been much less painful.
More pictures and the happy tech took me far down the hall and shut me alone in a cold room without my bra and with a rack of bright pamphlets telling me how to live with cancer. I decided they put me so far away so no one would hear my reaction to their findings. I occupied myself with trying to support my breasts. Finally, the tech brought in the female radiologist, who told me her name. Without smiling, she told me again about older women's breast tissues. Finally, finally, she told me my breasts were fine, gave me a strange little smile, and walked out.
Why could the breast center not hand every woman or put on the order for mammograms the information about older breasts?
Shouldn't a breast center, staffed by women, want to avoid unnecessary fear? For those of us who have had a major biopsy under general anesthesia, for those who watched our friends die of breast cancer, any extra fear is too much fear.