For someone who's sensitive to pain and cold, the thoughts of having a delicate body part squeezed between two chilly pieces of metal is downright panic-inducing. Once you're over 40, though, a mammogram becomes an annual part of life. Ah, the joys of being a woman with fibromyalgia!
I went for my first mammogram about 18 months ago, when I was 39. My doctor wanted a baseline established before I was 40. I just went for my second one recently.
I was pretty nervous about my first one because I'd heard horror stories about how painful it was -- and those were from healthy women!† Much to my relief, my clinic uses nice soft pads (called MammoPads) on top of the metal plates. That means it's not cold. Whew -- one less thing to rattle my nerves!
Then the tech began to tighten the "vise." Again, relief came when she said to let her know when it was uncomfortable because they want it to stay within your personal pain tolerance. She stopped when I told her to, and while it began to hurt while she was getting pictures, it was a bearable pain level. (Of course, our pain tolerances vary and those of us with fibromyalgia have extremely low tolerance, so it could be more painful for you.)
Even so, my body did began to react on the way home. A web of pain started spreading through my abdomen and I felt my tension level climb precipitously. Whether it was more from the mammogram or my anxiety before it, I can't say. I'd suggest having someone drive you home from a mammogram -- or any medical procedure that could trigger symptoms -- as well as taking anything you may use for calming your nerves ahead of time. Also, call ahead to see if your facility uses the MammoPad.
I found some great advice on lowering mammogram pain in an article from my About.com colleague Tracee Cornforth, Guide to Women's Health.† She recommends having it done in the first 2 weeks of your menstrual cycle, since breasts are less tender then; cutting out caffeine the week before, since it can increase breast tenderness; and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever an hour or so before your appointment.
With my most recent mammogram, I encountered a problem many women with fibromyalgia face -- unclear results because of what's called fibrocystic breasts (especially lumpy breast tissue.) A few days after the procedure, I got a call that I needed to come back in for more pictures because the radiologist wanted a better look at one particular area. Of course, I was a little unsettled by this, but fortunately I knew about this issue and I didn't let myself get too worried. As expected, it was nothing to worry about. (Learn more about our lumpy tissues.)
What have your mammograms been like? Have you experienced any problems with them? Have other medical procedures caused problems for you? Leave your comments below!
Learn more or join the conversation!
- Eye Exams & Fibromyalgia Symptom Triggers
- Supplements for Stress: DHEA & Theanine
- Getting a Mammogram: What to Expect
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