April 21 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I have just had my latest mammogram.
On the two previous occasions I have enjoyed this biennial event, it has been conducted in a portable building in a car park.
It’s okay, I feel at home in them (portable buildings, not car parks). I usually vote in one and have always performed the small jump across the chasm where the ramp has come adrift from the doorway with relish.
But this time, my appointment was to take me indoors. Yes, I was being brought in from the cold to the Outpatients department at the hospital where, it said, I should ask for directions to Satellite Breast Screening. This was new. Satellite, eh?
So what are we looking at here, Channel 8008 on Sky HD or an offshoot of satellite navigation?
If it is the former, can they also get Dave, ITV4 and Discovery Real Time? If it’s the latter, can my boobs now be exactly positioned, wherever they are on the planet?
Will they be beamed into space and reflected back? In which case, they could be roaming anywhere... which, I’m afraid, is rather how they are at the best of times nowadays. Thank goodness for well-constructed foundation garments. I go for the Rawhide bra; “round ‘em up and head ‘em out”.
Anyway, I was really looking forward to being properly indoors for the screening and, easily finding a parking space (it was 4pm on a snowy Friday afternoon), I obediently made my way to Outpatients and asked the way.
A smile of welcome from the receptionist: “You go down the corridor to the end,” she pointed, “and then turn left and you’ll see the sign on your right.”
What no tracking device?
I set off and walked down the corridor to the end, turned left and saw the sign on my right exactly as described. I grasped the door handle, opened the door... and, lo and behold, I was outside.
I walked back in and checked the sign. Yes, I was definitely in the right place. Ah well.
At first I was a bit concerned because the portable building nearest the door looked a bit like a builders’ site office... breathes sigh of relief, it was a builders’ site office.
The breast imaging was in the next portable building. I walked from the freezing air into the toastiest, warmest place I had been for a week. It was fantastic; cosy enough to take your clothes off which was just as well because that was the next thing I had to do – just the top half.
Rather like Mr Benn’s changing room, you enter from reception and come out the other end into a new and exciting place.
Because of the word “satellite” I had thought I would merely be required to stand there and someone would point a remote control at me; job done.
But it was still essentially the same routine. You stand by the machine, making sure your shoulders and elbows are out of the way and then each breast in turn is rested on a surface before being squashed firmly in position – thus the beefburger effect.
The satellitographer (I made that word up) then clicks a switch. It’s all over in seconds and not at all embarrassing.
I did, however, notice a couple of subtle changes in my body since last time. First, I found I had to manually lift the aforementioned frontal items up on to the imaging plate (previously they were able to do it by themselves).
Second, coming in for the final approach, my tummy was in the way and I had to hold it in. I don’t remember having to do that two years ago.
But apart from detecting a small decline in my erstwhile physical perfection (lol) it was not an unpleasant procedure and the female practitioner who did the screening was lovely. You don’t mind having your clothes off in front of someone nice like that.
The Ipswich Hospital website tells me that the unit provides screening for 47,000 women aged 50-70 as part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme. Over the next six years, the programme will be expanding to women aged 47-73.
This means I may have as many as eight more breast scans. I foresee interesting times ahead, by the time I get to 73 (having, I imagine, nearly reached statutory retirement age and looking forward to my state pension) I suspect no squashing will be required. And as for lifting them on to the scanner, the way things are going, I might require kitchen tongs or in extremis a forklift truck.
As I left the cabin, I passed a builder, going into his neighbouring premises.
I couldn’t help wondering if any women had mistakenly wandered in there and wondered why they had been handed a high-visibility jacket and a hard hat.