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If ya gotta get mashed… November 22, 2009

Posted by Beth in Personal.

Last week I went for my…um, er, ahem…annual mammogram. (Turns out it had been 3  1/2 years since I had been. I couldn’t believe it. I could have sworn I had been there 2 years ago!) As luck would have it, my exam was the same day the New York Times reported on the updated breast cancer screening recommendations from the USPSTF.  I only knew of these recommendations because of reading a post on one of the blogs I try to frequent. What a great opportunity to ask my radiologist what she thought of the recommendations! She and I traded papers–she handed me the response put out by the American College of Radiologists, and I handed her a copy of the above mentioned post. My curiosity was sufficiently piqued that I spent the next three days researching and writing. You can read the results here.

But the main purpose of this post is to relate my personal experience taking the exam.

I have been going to Dr. Diana Guthaner for over 10 years to get my mammograms. Most of those years, I paid several hundred dollars out of pocket in order to have to have the test done through her office as she was not one of my insurance plan’s preferred providers. I always considered money well spent. Here’s why.

There is nothing anyone can do about the discomfort of the test. It is what is is—-as these images capture it so well:

Dr. Guthaner’s office does everything possible to make the rest of the experience as comfortable as possible.

The office staff are friendly and helpful. I am advised ahead of time to block out out about an hour and a half for the visit. After filling out the requisite forms, I am promptly escorted to the changing area, outfitted with a padded hanger, a small compartment for my clothes, and a mirror in order to assist me with the finishing touches of putting myself back together when the exam is complete. I am handed a cloth gown (no small thing in these days of cold, stiff, disposable, paper gowns) allowed to change  and then invited to sit in a small waiting area.

The waiting area is furnished with living-room style padded chairs and reading lamps, soft classical music, an assortment of magazines and a table with self-serve coffee and tea. The walls are tastefully decorated with a combination of pleasing art and educational displays.  An electric space heater keeps the area comfortably warm. There is a TV, but it is off, and a group of 3-5 women sit quietly and read while waiting.

Eventually, I am called back for my exam. It is performed quickly, and the technician apologizes profusely for the temporary discomfort I experience during the exam. We both know it is not her fault and can not be avoided, but still, its nice to have the discomfort acknowledged.

Then, back to the waiting area while the films are developed and then immediately read by the radiologist. I am one of those unfortunate few with patches of dense fibrous tissue which always requires extra views to adequately rule out the worrisome stuff.  After the radiologist is satisfied with the films, I am told to get dressed, and then within a few minutes, I meet the radiologist to review the results.

This is one of the best aspects of Dr. Guthaner’s practice. Having a mammogram can be anxiety provoking, especially if you require extra views. With rates of breast cancer one in 40 women (varies with age) most of know someone who has had breast cancer; many of know someone who has died from it. At Dr. Guthaner’s, every woman leaves the office knowing the results of the test and having had an opportunity to ask the radiologist whatever question may have arisen.

All-in-all, the experience is a positive one, and I leave reassured by the news of a negative test, and grateful for the efforts made to attend to my comfort and peace-of-mind. I can’t help but wonder how different my experience would be in Canada, or the U.K. or even in the U.S. under plans more sheltered from competition. I value the choice we have in this country, and hope that the recent political efforts do not take it away.


1. Lynne - November 22, 2009

This mirrors my experience except that I NEVER get to talk to the radiologist. And I’m an extra view patient as well.

Even though any pain is not the technician’s fault and mostly the test doesn’t hurt, I appreciate the apologies, too.

2. Rinat - November 23, 2009

One more joke on the subject:
Here is how to prepare yourself for a mamography:
Open the refrigerator, standing streight, stick in your breast, close the refrigerator.
Do this on both sides and you are now prepared for the mamography.

3. Beth - November 24, 2009


4. Anonymous - December 15, 2009

I took Beth’s advice and went to this place. They are good and I loved looking at the x-rays right away. But I am STILL sore….

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