A couple of weeks ago I received a letter, not quite out of the blue, giving me a time and place for my routine mammogram. It’s a smart move: instead of a letter asking you to call for an appointment, they just make an appointment for you.
I imagine they have a much higher participation rate that way.
BreastScreen Aotearoa is a free national breast screening programme for eligible women aged 45 to 69:
- The aim of breast screening is to find very small cancers before a lump can be found on the breast. Early treatment has the best chance of success.
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand women.
This was my second routine screening so I knew what to expect. The technician was very friendly and efficient, positioning me with my feet in certain spots and hand over my head, or arm forward, head facing one way or the other, to get everything lined up.
The black base in the photo of the amazingly named Mammomat 1000 contains the X-Ray plate. The perspex ‘plate’ comes down and squishes your breast. It’s a bit uncomfortable for a few seconds while the image is made, and then you’re released.
The machine tilts to around 45° and a second image is made.
It’s all repeated then with the other breast.
After my images were done the technician asked me to wait around for a couple of minutes before I could get dressed again. She looked at the X-Ray images to make sure they met whatever requirements are in place. Mine must have been OK, because we didn’t have to do them again.
The whole session took about 10 minutes, including the undressing and dressing again.
When I took a couple of photos the technician grew quite enthusiastic, telling me how great this particular machine is.
The Mammomat 1000 has several buttons that operate motors to move it into position. At the Hutt Hospital, where she also works, the machine is older and she has to move it into position by hand. That must be pretty demanding, when you spend all day on that kind of work.
I feel mighty pleased that our government provides free breast screening for those most at risk. Let’s hope that it’s not taken away again by those currently in power.