The Mammogram Call Back: It’s no Audition
It’s scary as hell. Mine freaked me out. I was fine with the mammogram because it was a routine test. But the call back…what were they looking for?
Since 1 in 8 women develop breast cancer, we need to be honest about the possibility of developing it. So, yes, get your mammogram.
A positive note? There are a number of risks for breast cancer that we can control: maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, regular exercise, avoiding hormone use. Take control where you can.
My 3 Suggestions for the Mammogram Call Back
I had my first mammogram a year ago, at 39, because my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Enter suggestion one…
Suggestion 1: Try to avoid scheduling any mammogram while someone you love is undergoing treatment for breast cancer (if possible)
Why? Because you’re extra sensitive, extra worried, extra stressed, and extra scared about breast cancer. If you must schedule it for health reasons, do so. I didn’t need to rush to have my test, but everyone made such a scary big deal about it, I did. And what happened? Abnormal test results. Which leads to…
Suggestion 2: Expect the follow-up phone call to freak you out
Even though the nurses were sensitive and compassionate, the idea of the mammogram call back still scared the crap out of me. If you expect it to freak you out and pull yourself out of the denial bubble, I think it’s easier to deal.
My first call back phone call went something like this:
Nurse: “We need you to come back for more scans of your right breast.”
Me: “Just my right? What’s wrong with that one?”
Nurse: “We don’t know. The radiologist needs to see more detail.”
Me: “Why? What does he see? What about the left?”
Nurse: “I don’t have that information. I’m just calling to schedule the follow-up tests for the right. The left looks fine.”
Me: “So that means the right doesn’t look fine?”
Nurse: “We don’t know. That’s why we need more detail. Try not to worry.”
Me: “Try not to worry? Really?”
Nurse: “The doctor will look at the results and decide if he wants an UltraSound. Then he’ll explain the results to you.”
When I read that conversation now, it seems perfectly fine. But at that time, it paralyzed me. All I could picture was my Mom – her surgery, 6 months of chemo, 7 weeks of radiation. Mom.
Suggestion 3: Have someone you can text while you’re waiting in the office for your mammogram call back test results
I had to sit in the subzero waiting room with my paper vest on with all of the other walker-dependent, 70 year-old+ women who had abnormal mammograms like me. I watched all 40 and 50-somethings breeze in and out with their perfectly normal mammograms with envy.
I texted my sister the whole time. She kept telling me everything would be fine. This is a key strategy to keep it together.
Final Deep Thoughts
I could sit here and tell you to breathe or think positive, stuff that you already know and probably won’t do. You will worry. You will freak out. It’s ok. You’re human.
Ground yourself in tangible things you can do to help yourself through it. These are 3 things that worked for me. No matter what the results show, it will be ok. It’s just a question of how much hell you put yourself through to get there.