My Routine Mammogram

by Michaela

I have always been aware of the importance of attending three-yearly mammograms. When I turned 50 in 2016, I never doubted that I would attend mine when I received the call. I firmly believe that if you are offered free health checks, you should always attend; however, I appreciate that everyone is different and may not share my perspective.

The importance of attending these three-yearly checks was brought home to me at the end of November 2022, when Sue Fisher, the wife of my boss, received the devastating news that she had breast cancer. Her cancer was detected during one of her routine mammograms and the message hit home even harder when she was told that her hormonal cancer might have gone undetected had she not gone for her routine check.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with one woman diagnosed every ten minutes. Approximately 55,000 women are diagnosed every year in the UK, two-thirds of whom have their cancer detected through screening.

Following Sue’s diagnosis, Strategi Solutions created the Big Girl Pants Charity Fundraiser to raise funds for the UHNM Charity, with all monies raised going directly to the Breast Care Teams at the Royal Stoke University Hospital and County Hospital Stafford. During the inaugural campaign in 2023, we raised over £24,000 for the UHNM Charity, and therefore are continuing the momentum to raise funds with our new campaign for 2024.

As one of the main coordinators for the Big Girl Pants fundraiser, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my experience at my most recent mammogram on 17th June 2024.

My appointment was at 2.45 pm at the Breast Screening Unit in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. This was my third routine screening appointment since turning 50, and all my appointments have been at this centre. I always notice how old and unloved the building looks from the outside, but inside is a different story when you are greeted instantly by friendly faces.

I arrived ten minutes early, gave my name to the receptionist, and before I had chance to sit down, I was called into one of the cubicles. I was instructed to enter the room, lock the door, and remove all clothing from the waist up.

Inside the cubicle, there are two doors: one that you lock and another that is locked from the outside. The radiographer unlocks this door and asks you to enter the screening room, where she guides you to the scanner that will be used to complete your mammogram. During the scan, you are asked to stand in different positions while each breast is placed into the machine and x-rayed.

The procedure can be quite painful as the machine has to clamp down on each breast to obtain clear images for a thorough examination, but the process takes no longer than five minutes so it’s over quickly. The radiographer took four images in total (two on each side) and explained that I would receive the results in around ten days and that I was free to go. I went back through the little door, got dressed, and was on my way home. Finding breast cancer early reduces your risk of dying from the disease by 25-30% or more. The moral of the story is don’t be afraid. Mammography is a fast procedure and discomfort is minimal for most women. Most importantly, the procedure is safe and can ultimately save your life.

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