If you’re female, within days of your 50th birthday the Government of Ontario sends you two gifts in the mail. The first is a breast cancer screening letter, advising that now that you are officially ancient (my words, not theirs) you must have your boobs flattened into pancakes by a machine every two years.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and although a mammogram is not exactly a pleasant process, it’s worth going through a bit of pain to make sure you are cancer free.
The second gift from the government (which I assume men over 50 also receive) was a letter about swiping a blob of poo on a slide not once, but three different times, during a 10 day period. This colon cancer kit included three slides and what looked like a couple of really long Popsicle sticks. According to the instructions, participants should put the wooden stick in the toilet to scoop out some poo and then smear it onto the slide and yeah… just yuck!
I was not looking forward to utilizing either of these generous gifts. I put off the breast cancer screening for months, until I decided to bite the bullet and and scheduled an appointment. My mother advised me not to have any caffeine on the day of the mammogram. Apparently, caffeine could make my breasts more sensitive. But if there ever was a morning I needed coffee, it was the one in which I was about to get my boobs flattened into pancakes.
The technician at the lab was nice and funny. Just before the glass plate pushed down onto my breast she said: “hold your breath and think of George Clooney.” Once it was all over, I told her I’d actually met Clooney twice, at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This led to a discussion about TIFF and the celebrities I had met there. It made the whole experience a lot more positive than what I’d been expecting.
Flushing The Fecal Screening Test
I cannot describe the fecal screening because I still haven’t done it. I received a gentle chiding from my doctor about it when last I saw him (due to my broken finger) and I told him I just couldn’t bring myself to do it because it is unbelievably gross.
The good news is that next year, a colon cancer blood test will be available. It will be even more accurate than the disgusting poop smear test. When the test is available, I’ll give a liter of blood out of my arm if I must.
Good Reasons To Get A Mammogram
If you’re still on the fence about getting a mammogram, please consider the following:
- The procedure can save your life. Detecting breast cancer early can reduce your chance of dying from the disease by at least 25-30%. In Ontario, women should begin having mammograms at age 50. If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about having one at an earlier age.
- It’s safe. Mammography is a relatively quick (around 15-20 minutes) procedure, and the discomfort is marginal for most women. Some worry the radiation may increase their risk of cancer. In fact, mammograms produce less radiation than chest x-rays.
- The procedure is free. If you live in Canada, regardless of whether or not you have insurance, there is no charge for a mammogram.
Getting a mammogram is a good way to detect breast cancer early, which can increase your survival rate. This makes the small bit of discomfort during a mammogram well worth it. Just remember to hold your breath and think of George Clooney.