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My 1st mammogram – a mixed bag…

Going for a mammogram is something I’ve been meaning to do for at least the last 5/6 years but that age-old excuse always kicked in – no time. Whenever I’d think about booking one I honestly didn’t know where to start & the biggest struggle was finding somewhere I could go to have this done on a weekend.

So with some time on my hands, I called my GP for some advice. The Doctor’s office let me know that just about any hospital should be able to help & that I should ask to be put through to their radiology department. I called & booked at Park Lane Clinic – not at all my favourite hospital (reminds of a dreary government hospital but they are currently renovating) but they were closest to home & could offer me an appointment the next day.

On arrival, I was initially quite surprised & more than a little irritated by the reception I received. The admin/reception staff repeatedly enquired about my age (I’m 30) & whether there was a family history of breast cancer (there’s none). They asked over & over as if not understanding why I was there. I was annoyed but pushed ahead anyway.

Park Lane Clinic is part of the Netcare group of hospitals

While the rest of the hospital is pretty depressing in terms of appearance (yes, I’m superficial like that!) I was really pleased to see that the radiology department has been cheered up quite a lot.

This is the inside of the waiting room (really!)  – I loved the decor & the touches

In the waiting room I completed the usual paperwork & found myself amongst other waiting women, all older than my mother. I was ushered to a changed room where I was given a robe (which should be worn to open down the front & not the back like you see in movies I learned!). With my robe well secured, up to this point I was rather unimpressed with the staff (it felt a little like I was on a conveyor belt of a production line) & the service held an undertone throughout of continuously asking me to justify why I was there!

When my turn came, I met the radiologist (a lady, thankfully) who was such a departure from everyone else I had met up to then. She was welcoming & explained the entire process to me as we went through it, answering all of my unending questions. The mammogram itself involved each breast being clamped (this really sounds worse than it is) – all done whilst standing upright. They try to “grip” as much breast tissue when doing this as possible & each breast x rayed twice: once straight ahead & then at an angle, checking your underarm area as well. At no point is it painful – at worst I would describe it as a bit uncomfortable & that passes in just a few minutes. The radiologist went on to say that around 1 in 2 women who come in find something in their breast(s), not cancer per se.

This info was then interpreted by the Dr (Dr Peter Schoub) & then there is a second part to the process I didn’t know about – an ultra sound which may or may not be necessary. It’s pretty much like the one done in pregnancy (well from what I’ve seen on TV!). Gel is applied to the breasts & they’re examined on a screen for the Doctor to see further details than what the mammogram provides. The doctor explained that if something is spotted in one’s breast, it can be one of 3 things:

  1. a tumour (malignant/benign)
  2. a lump
  3. a cyst (a sac/capsule filled with fluid)

The radiologist & doctor were super professional & fully restored my faith by the time I left. The thing that’s most concerning is the prohibitive cost of the procedure. In total it came to around R1200 – of which roughly R900 was covered by my medical aid (Discovery – I’m on the essential saver plan) from the preventative screening benefit (thank God it’s not from my MSA) & the balance, (around R300 to cover the ultra sound) I paid for cash.

I’m glad I finally made the time & went – it’s really not the dreaded, painful experience the urban legend makes it to be. If you’re on Discovery, check the benefits of your plan thoroughly. It turns out I could have a mammogram for free (or rather from the preventative screening benefit) every year so check & you may be in for a surprise.

PS be sure to catch this month’s Glamour – on page 96 Giuliana & Bill Rancic share the most intimate details of their triumph with breast cancer. Be warned, you’ll need tissues…

Hope your week is off to a super start!

W

Netcare Park Lane Clinic

Corner Junction Ave and Parklane, Parktown, 2193

+27 (0) 11 480 4000

http://www.netcare.co.za/

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