Most of my close friends know that my mother died of breast cancer when I was just 11 years old. The memories are very vivid – of a late diagnosis, chemotherapy sessions and five years of intense pain and suffering. This was in 1980 when there was very little awareness and a lot of stigma attached to the word ‘cancer’.

That’s perhaps why breast cancer awareness is a cause after my own heart. It’s not because I have a strong family history and I could also get it… but because I feel that every woman out there needs to know… for it could make a difference between life and death.

I had my first screening mammogram for breast cancer last month. Having a mammogram is an intense experience. In a sense, it makes you feel vulnerable, because even if you are not afraid, you know there is a result at the end of it. And cancer is still a dreaded word.

People told me that it would be painful. It certainly was not. Okay, there is a little discomfort with having your breasts pressed between two plates six times. But that was it… In a matter of ten minutes, I had the results before me. There was an ultrasound as well… Both the radiographer and the radiologist put me at ease and answered the number of questions I had.

Why do women past a particular age (opinion differs on this) need to have a mammogram? One, because breast cancer is the most common of cancers among women. Two, because apart from masses that can be detected, even the tiniest of micro-calcifications can be studied. And early detection and diagnosis means early cure!

A person whom I know and who is passionate about the cause in Oman told me last year, “People do not hesitate to spend 50 rials on a dress, but are not willing to spend money on a mammogram.”

If you have a family history or the risk factors associated with breast cancer, it’s advisable to have a clinical breast examination regularly apart from self-breast exams. Your doctor will tell you when to have a mammogram done as the age for having one differs from country to country and health centre to health centre.

Be open with your doctor about your fears and about anything your body may be trying to tell you. Do not ignore even the slightest discomfiture…

I know it does not just end with one mammogram. I need to keep having one every year… Am I scared? Maybe a bit… but in the end, I know that being aware also means being positive… that will hopefully be my guiding force for years to come.

(For those in Oman, the National Association for Cancer Awareness (NACA) is having a month-long ‘education and awareness’ exhibition on breast cancer at Qurum City Centre. The Mobile Mammography Unit is stationed there offering free mammograms. Also, there will be a special Cancer Awareness Walk on October 25. Join in, and be aware!)


16 thoughts on “I had a mammogram…

    1. no. it’s not painful suzy… you must do it… but take someone along with you. I did not… and i felt very emotional afterwards. i did it for a piece in Al Mar’a… It’s in the current issue…

    1. thanks narayanan… i am not courageous… i am actually a very emotional person… but the cause matters much more than anything else… so i wrote it for my magazine, and a small part of it here.

  1. An old lady in my close relations died of breast cancer many years ago. Seeing her dying without any medical care was painful. She was operated upon at a very late stage and it proved fatal. They lived in a very small town in central India and people were not aware of the risks at those times, they still are not aware. Most women are still hesitant about precautionary check-ups and they keep on neglecting their symptoms.
    Yes, being aware is the most positive thing one can do with herself.
    Wishing you good luck 🙂 Stay cool.

  2. Good one Rekha, especially it bring in confidence in the ladies to go for Mammogram in the initial period itself (ie early 40s). You should have mentioned about mothers have feeding babies. For them same cannot be carried out until the baby stops feeding.

    1. Thanks umesh awareness is important and that’s why I chose to write it. Regarding feeding you are right. But medically having babies after the age of 35 especially the first contributes as a risk factor. The mammogram is done after 40 generally quite a late age for a woman to have a baby.

  3. It must have been tough having lost your mommy at such a young age! Hugs..

    I was discussing with my doc on when I should have the mammogram done just the last week:) Being aware is truly the first step to manage a health issue..

  4. I happened to read this particular post on October 18 (exactly!) and the next day I heard that my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer! Shocking coincidence. She got her breasts removed within days. Since then I was waiting to post a comment here.
    Now I too have a family history of cancer!! But let’s hope for the best, Rekhabaala…

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