The Mammogram Post

MammogramI don’t vent often on this site, but my girlfriend J-Rab went for a mammogram yesterday and had a really crappy, uncomfortable experience that I felt I had to share because if this is what other girls have to go through then we have a serious problem.

It is a well-documented fact that the best and most powerful way of beating cancer is through early detection and treatment.

It’s something the CANSA association and numerous health administrations in South Africa and the world encourage people to do in order to beat a disease that affects an average of one in four people in their lifetime.

J-Rab has been understandably upset and freaked out over the past few weeks because she’s been experiencing pain in her breasts, and was referred by her GP to have a mammogram – not because she was being paranoid or oversensitive but because, though she’s only in her late 20s, she has a history of breast cancer in her family and was genuinely worried something might be wrong.

For the benefit of my male readers, let it be known that going for a mammogram, much like prostate examinations for men, is something women genuinely loathe having to go through.

When radiologists perform mammograms, they basically squash a woman’s breast tissue as flat as it will go which is an uncomfortable enough experience to have to go through, never mind the fact that they go through it half naked.

In J-Rab’s case, the first part of the procedure, painful as it was, wasn’t too bad. She got undressed and had the mammogram done by a female radiologist who made her feel as comfortable as the procedure would allow.

Once that was over, a male doctor came in to perform the ultrasound who was so rude and dismissive towards her that he had the nerve to say (and I quote) “Why are you doing this at such a young age?” to which she replied that she’d been experiencing pain in her right breast and that, because there is a history of breast cancer in her family, she wanted to get in checked out.

“Pain is no indication of cancer,” he told her abruptly, like she was an idiot for ever thinking something might be wrong. He then scanned her half-heartedly, gave the scans a cursory glance, grunted “there’s nothing here” and marched out of the room without even saying goodbye to her.

Instead of feeling relieved that her scans were clear, J-Rab left with an uneasy feeling like there might have been something the doctor overlooked and like she’d been violated in some way.

Is this the kind of behaviour that women have to put up with when going through a difficult, potentially life-changing ordeal?

And more importantly, what kind of doctor treats his patients like that? Like they’re wasting his time by checking that they aren’t sick with a life-threatening disease?

It makes me furious me that someone in the medical profession would treat an issue like this in such a dismissive and callous way.

If you have such a low regard for your patients and what they might be going through, then do us all a favour and quit because by behaving like that you’re only making a bad situation worse.


4 Responses to “The Mammogram Post”

  1. 1 clare
    February 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I recently had to go for my first mammogram and ultrasound for very similar reasons. The examination itself was, as you said, awkward and uncomfortable, but not painful. They took the time to show me what they were looking for and at, which put my mind at ease. Perhaps it’s time to find another doctor? I can highly recommend Dr Carol Thomas and her team.

  2. February 29, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Unfortunately one has to learn to ignore the damaging behaviour of the medical profession. Do what you think is right and to hell with what anyone else thinks. I had the opposite problem to J-Rab. To cut a long story short – three doctors and four mammograms later, over a period of two years in Johannesburg and Cape Town, I was diagnosed with Stage 2b breast cancer which necessitated a mastectomy in May last year. I’d been told on more than one occasion that I was over-reacting and imagining things because I’d had a large ovarian tumour (first diagnosed as a spastic colon) removed just before I felt the lumps. One doctor even said I was imagining the lumps ‘because I lived on my own’. This was after a five-minute grope in which he failed to find the (by then) golf-ball size lumps in my breast and under my arm. There’s a rumour that breast cancer lumps don’t hurt – mine did.

    • March 1, 2012 at 6:59 am

      I don’t know why I wrote ‘opposite’ problem – that’s not what I meant at all.

    • March 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      Cait, I’ve been meaning to reply to this comment for a long time but I wanted to say thank you for sharing. J-Rab read your comment and it immediately made her feel better and like she was doing the right thing despite the fact that the doctor who treated her had handled the whole situation with so little tact.

      I’m sorry to hear about what you went through. I hope all is well and that there were no complications after the masectomy and you’ve been given the all clear.

      Thank you for sharing this story and all the best for the future 🙂


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