Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | May 3, 2004

How about a mammogram for Mother’s Day?

Technically, I was 172 days late, but who’s counting? I should have been, and I’m embarrassed that it was nearly six months after my 40th birthday that I finally got my first mammogram.

I really should know better. I’ve written numerous stories about cancer patients, including at least two about women in their early 40s with breast cancer. I tended my toddler daughter through her two-and-a-half year leukemia treatment. I know that cancer is not an enemy to be ignored. I know that starting the battle early can make a huge difference.

Finally, last week, I went to the BreastCare Center at Saint Louise Regional Hospital and had that mammogram. I should have the results later this week.

The mammogram was a piece of cake. The x-ray technician couldn’t have been nicer. She explained every step of the procedure, which was only slightly uncomfortable for mere seconds. Stubbing my toe is more painful than that mammogram. There was, for me at least, no pain involved.

You’ll be asked to not wear deodorant or powder to the mammogram appointment, so you might want to come armed to take care of your underarms following the procedure. Frankly, I don’t know why deodorant manufacturers haven’t picked up on this. They should be supplying mammography facilities with sample sizes of their products. I think the marketing folks for Secret, you know the stuff that’s strong enough for a man, but made for a woman, should be all over this.

If you’re like me and haven’t had that first mammogram you’re supposed to get for yourself for a 40th birthday present, don’t delay any longer. If my experience is any guide, there’s a whole lot less discomfort involved than in getting your teeth cleaned, and it takes a lot less time.

The peace of mind you’ll get from a clean report will be worth the small hassle of scheduling and keeping the annual appointment. And if, God forbid, should the diagnosis be breast cancer, you’ll be thankful you didn’t delay further. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, when breast cancer is found early, 96 percent of patients survive at least five years.

Here’s another important point about mammogram results: If an anomaly is found in your mammogram, it doesn’t automatically mean you have breast cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that 10 percent of women will require follow-up mammography to check on anomalies. Of those, only 10 percent will need a biopsy. Of those, only 20 percent will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mammograms, which can cost as much as $160, aren’t just for women with money and health insurance. From May 9 to 14, organizers of the National Women’s Health Week are offering free clinical breast exams and mammograms to low-income women in California who are 40 and older and who do not have health insurance, whose health insurance doesn’t cover the services, or who have a high deductible or co-pay.

To find out if you qualify for the free services, call (800) 511-2300 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday. Assistance is offered in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese. Callers who qualify are referred to participating health providers.

If you have loved ones who’ve battled any type of cancer, why not support the upcoming Relays for Life, which benefit the American Cancer Society? Relays are fun, 24-hour events to raise funds to fight cancer, to raise awareness, and to honor those who have battled the disease. You can help by forming a team to raise money or by pledging financial support to someone who’s participating in the Relay.

In Morgan Hill, the Relay will be held on May 22 and 23 at Oakwood Country School. Gilroy’s Relay will be held June 19 and 20 at Christmas Hill Park. For more information on either community’s Relay, contact Kate Reynolds at 879-1032 or visit the American Cancer Society Web site.

A run to benefit Gilroy’s Relay for Life will be held next Saturday, May 15. The 10K Race and 5K Race/Fun Walk will be held Saturday, May 15, at Christmas Hill Park. Pre-registration is $20. Call Kelly Ramirez at 842-3348 for more details.

I may have been 172 days late giving myself a mammogram for my 40th birthday, but I’m going to look at it another way: I was 10 days early with a precious Mother’s Day gift. If you’ve been procrastinating making that mammogram appointment, I hope you’ll give yourself the same present this Mother’s Day.

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