Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mammograms - and two words nobody wants to hear

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.

4 comments:

Kaye Fleming said...

It is a shame that clinicians in general can become so acustomed to doing thier jobs that they become desensitized to humans. From what I understand the new controversial findings that were released recently about women not having breast exams until age 50 because of such anxiety over false alarms is related to this. Time is money in the medical profession. And they don't have the time to educate each patient. Question Authority, take it all with a grain of salt, and know your own body well enough to say "this may all be b.s."

k.gast said...

I may have more to post after a visit to my doctor today about anxiety attacks. The acupuncturist understands and helps. Let's see if the dr. does.

marilyn said...

I found a lump about twenty years ago and was an emotional mess by the time I got to the doctor. I had a hospital biopsy which was frightening by itself but the lump was benign and removed at that time. Yes, I had already been getting mammograms and yes, I still do. Maybe it's small town friendliness but my experiences with mamogramists (is there such a word?) have been good. Our hospital now has the new digital machine and I think it uses less compression. The comparison with last years image and this years was informative. Much more of the tissue edge is shown.

No, I don't like going in for any sort of test and would probably forget about this one but the hospital, like our dentist and vet, sends out reminder cards.

marilyn

k.gast said...

I agree that the right smalltown staff can make a very big difference and am happy to report that Nurse Ratchet and the dim receptionist are fixtures of the past at my doctor's office. It made for a fruitful visit. And Kaye, I agree that it pays to question and listen to one's inner voice as well!