When I received a letter from the Somerset Breast Screening Centre, the alarm bells started to ring. Why had they contacted me? What did they know that I didn’t? Having had the X-ray, would I go through days of mentally debilitating torture whilst I waited to hear the worst?
I cannot deny I do have a tendency for the dramatics – it goes with the territory of being a writer – and when I calmed down I realised it was probably part of the Government’s drive toward preventative health care as the letter said they are now ‘inviting’ women under the usual age bar of 50, to have a mammogram.
(A BBC news report dated 3 May 2013 said that Cancer Research UK has seen an 11% increase (that’s 1 in 5 cases) in the number of British women under the age of 50 being diagnosed with breast cancer)
Now I don’t pretend to know how much this procedure costs but I think it’s fair to say it’s not cheap and my particular invitation was to join them in the Mobile Screening Unit in Tesco’s Car Park (I know, not the most salubrious location or indeed an area associated with aspects of female medical checks). So on top of the X-ray procedure itself, there is the cost of transporting the mobile unit, the expense of the generator that I could hear rumbling away in the background and I wonder what Tesco charged them given the usual 2 hour time limit they allow you in their car-parks?
So there is no doubt the whole event was costing someone a great deal of money and effort.
And not wishing to miss the opportunity of being told there is at least one part of my body that is in reasonable nick, I decided to attend.
Now this wouldn’t be the first time I have focussed on this part of my body, the last time was around 5 years ago when I put myself into such a blind panic when I discovered some lumps that turned out to be nothing more than my own less than smooth flesh. But at the time, my whole world came crashing down on me.
From the moment I had the X-ray I thought that was it, my time was up. The act of being scanned for breast cancer was the beginning of the end as far as I was concerned (I did warn you about the drama!) and it was just a matter of time before I was having invasive treatment and regular trips to the hospital. Those few days between having the test and getting the result were purgatory.
So this time round, I was slightly less agitated as it was not me instigating the event but the ‘system’ so it seemed somehow less threatening. So having endured the torture of the Tesco aisles I made my way to the large white mobile unit that was parked in the far corner.
Now there is something odd about buying your fruit & veg then popping out into the car-park for an X-ray, or is that just me? I felt like I was taking part in some dodgy deal as I walked head down just in case I caught the eye of anyone I know….
“Hello Sophia! Where are you going?”
“Oh hello John, just going to get my breasts X-rayed. See you at school pick-up.” You see what I mean don’t you? OK it’s not dodgy or dubious but it’s not what you think about as you decide on BOGOF’s & sell-by dates!
The procedure was uncomfortable and not one I enjoyed (rather like another examination we ladies have to go through every 3 years) but I got on with it because the consequences of not having it done are far worse.
When Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie was told she had an 87% risk of breast cancer, in February 2013 she decided to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce the chances of suffering from the disease.
And that’s what got me thinking.
I disliked having it done and I dislike the other test even more but given the alternative, I would far rather feel uncomfortable and awkward for a few minutes than risk the possibility of being destroyed by something far greater than my sensitive level of dignity.
The probability of anything being wrong is miniscule but the reassurance of knowing there is nothing wrong is enormous.