A first experience of a mammogram

The invitation
In mid- June I received a letter from Chesterfield Royal Hospital inviting me to attend a breast screening appointment at Cavendish Hospital Screening Unit in Buxton during the second week in July (five days after my fiftieth birthday).

The date of the appointment was inconvenient as I had a longstanding commitment at work on the day, so I rang the Breast Screening Department at the Royal and explained the situation.  The person I spoke to was understanding and helpful and we changed the date of the appointment, and its location, as during the working week it is much more convenient for me to attend an appointment in the centre of Chesterfield than in Buxton.  It was easy to make this change and I received a letter of confirmation of the new arrangements very soon afterwards.

Deciding whether to attend
The surprising thing for me was the booklet that came along with the invitation letter, which emphasised that having the mammogram was entirely my choice and there were benefits and risks associated with what could happen afterwards.  I was aware that screening can result in patients having treatment for tumours, which would never have developed into anything problematic, and it preyed on my mind that I might end up sucked into unnecessary treatment.  In the end I decided that I would have to cross that bridge when I came to it, and it was better to go ahead with the screening than not.

The process
On the day, I felt quite anxious about the whole thing.  I arrived 10 minutes early for the appointment, which was at Scarsdale Clinic, checked in and waited for about 15 minutes in the reception area.  The mammography area was just off the reception, behind a curtain.  Within the area there are two screened-off cubicles for patients to undress (from the waist up only) and the screening room.

The screening took about 5 minutes and there was just me and the mammographer in the room.  (The mammographer is always female.) She explained what would happen before she started.  She guided me to manoeuvre each breast onto the x-ray machine.  It was a bit awkward to get myself into the right position and the machine didn’t seem to have been designed with the female form in mind, but we got there in the end!   Each time she lowered a plastic plate down gently but quite firmly to flatten the breast and asked me to keep completely still whilst the X-ray was taken.  She stayed in the room the whole time and took two X-rays of each breast – one from above and one from the side.  It was uncomfortable, but not painful.

After the appointment
I felt relieved afterwards, and pleased I’d gone through with it.  I was at the Clinic for about half an hour in total and was able to go straight back to work.  The result came through the post to my home address two weeks later.  Nothing was detected.

hannah sharpe