Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

October 14, 2012

10/14/2012 — Lee Ward: In the vise of healthy initiatives

ASHLAND — While I’m not the healthiest person around, I do the best I can to take care of myself.

I see my dentist and doctor on a regular basis. I get some (not a lot, but some) exercise and I try to eat mostly healthy food.

I’m pretty well informed about what’s good to do and what’s bad to do for one’s health, even though the advice seems to change every day.

When it was time to get my annual mammogram, I did it.

One study published in the last few years questioned the value of annual mammograms for women 50 or older who haven’t had problems with breast health in the past, but doctors, including mine, didn’t take that very seriously. I trust my doctor, so off I went for a mammogram.

I’ve had a regular mammogram since I was 45, as well as a baseline test when I was 40, so the process isn’t new to me, but like most health maintenance procedures, there are constant updates and changes so it’s a little different every time.

One thing I’ve noticed over the last five years is mammograms have become increasingly uncomfortable.

I’m not trying to scare off anyone who hasn’t had one and needs it. The tests are not painful, just a little uncomfortable. My theory is the technicians have been instructed to be more aggressive with the equipment because research has shown the results will be more accurate. In layman’s terms, they’ve started squashing you more.

Humor wise, mammograms are always good for a laugh. I read an essay by a woman who said she had a mammogram at a mobile unit that caught fire while she was, how should I say it, locked in. That must’ve been scary at the time, but great for a laugh later.

When you get a mammogram, you’re told to undress from the waist up and put on a robe.

“Did you put on deodorant today?” they’ll ask you.

“You’d know by now if I didn’t,” I always want to answer, but I don’t. This woman’s about to clamp down on a body part with a powerful piece of machinery so I don’t want to make her mad.

Then, they had you a little packet that’s labeled “Mammo-Wipe.” It’s a moist cloth you use to remove your deodorant or powder. It’s something you’d like to have in your purse at a restaurant after you eat a plate of ribs.

To ensure accuracy, the technician places small, brightly colored adhesive strips across, how should I say it, the parts that might show up as a problem but aren’t. It’s necessary but startling when you forget you have them on, take the robe off and find colorful patches on your chest.

For the highs and lows, the funny and the scary, the good, the bad and the ugly, the mammogram is worth the trouble and the effort.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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