I schedule my annual mammogram and annual physical for the week of my birthday so I won’t forget to present myself to the medical establishment every year for inspection. I went for my first mammogram right after my 40th birthday, so today was my third time at the outpatient imaging center for a breast exam. I am all for every kind of screening, image, blood test – anything a doctor will give me to keep an eye on this cunning body of mine. I have this nagging suspicion that there is always a secret coup simmering below my epidermis. Whispers and encrypted messages are being sent along my neurons, my cells just waiting for me to start watching Bridgerton again so they can take advantage of my distraction and initiate a violent overthrow.
I sat in a chair in front of a drafty tinted window, wrapped in my watermelon pink medical gown, arms snaked around my torso to keep from freezing. I answered all the pre-mammo questions: Family history of breast cancer? No. Could I be pregnant? No. How old was I wen I had my first period? 12. How many full term pregnancies? One. A couple of questions about my ethnic heritage and my cycle and my nipples, and the mammography technician swivels on her stool to look at me and asks “Do you want me to click this button to calculate your current and future risk for breast cancer, based on your responses?”
Do I want to know? They’ve never asked me this before. I was totally unprepared for this Magic 8 Ball moment.
“Yes” I blurt out.
“Ok, the computer says you have a 2.14% chance of having breast cancer right now, and a 15% chance of developing breast cancer in your life time.”
“I’ll take it.”
“You’re considered low risk.”
The mammogram process itself was uneventful and cold and squashy, as always. A few hours later I had a new message in MyChart to let me know that the radiologist had read my images and my breasts looked healthy and to come back next year. Terrific! It won’t be the breasts to lead the mutiny this year!
Next up, I’m due for a colonoscopy in 2021. Since my mom’s colon cancer was so aggressive, I’m on an Every Three Years schedule. I’ll ask my primary care doctor at my physical next week if I should go ahead and schedule it, or wait until the post-COVID pax romana we are all eagerly anticipating. Colonoscopies themselves are not bad – you’re out cold for the whole thing. It’s the prep and the immediate aftermath that can be unseemly. But I would sign up for a colonoscopy as often as they’ll give them to me if it means catching a polyp before it breaches my large intestine.
Get your mammogram. Ask if you can just mix Miralax into your favorite sports drink rather than using the nasty standard colonoscopy prep mix. And remember to love your body enough to check in on it regularly. Check in on your body like you would check on your kid who has been playing quietly in her room alone for a while. She’s almost certainly building an elaborate chateau out of Lego bricks and toilet paper rolls, but she may have just started painting your puppy and the walls with nail polish. Just go check.