Walking You Through Getting a Mammogram

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The fear of the unknown is what keeps many women from getting yearly mammograms when the time comes around.  In this Healthcast, we follow two familiar faces here at KPLC through the screening process to show you - it's not so bad.

If you are a faithful KPLC viewer, Mari Wilson and Kaye Billeaudeaux are no strangers on your television.  But their primary tasks this week took them out of the station and inside Lake Charles Memorial Hospital's Breast Health Center.  "So many of my friends and co-workers have had breast cancer and some have breast cancer," says Kaye, "They've all detected it early, thank God, but you see what they go through and it's just not something that you want to deal with."

While breast cancer is not preventable, it's something that is curable if caught in the early stages.  Breast Health Center Director Kim Strong says Southwest Louisiana falls at the bottom of the totem pole for women receiving mammograms.  "We have one of the highest rates of finding breast cancer in stages four and five because women don't get their annual mammograms," says Kim.

Fear of pain from the x-ray machine or the thought of cancer actually being found keeps many women from scheduling a mammogram. So, if you've never taken that step, we hope that explaining exactly what goes on will ease some concerns.

First on the agenda when Mari and Kaye arrive at the Breast Health Center is filling out paperwork.  Both women have had their baseline mammograms and yearly screenings since turning 40.

After the paperwork is complete, the ladies are off to changing areas where they replace their blouses with a front-opening gown.  Kaye is first on the list to get her mammogram.

Kaye is led into the screening room by an x-ray technician who tells here, "I'm gonna get you to step on into the machine as close as you can.  The first two pictures your arms are going to be by your side, relax your shoulders, you're going to turn your head to wherever I'm standing."  The tech walks to her computer, presses a button and the machine takes the first of four images.

The first two images are frontal views where the breast is compressed by two plates, one on the top and one on the bottom.  This is done for each breast.

To illustrate the side views, we move on to Mari's screening room.  At this point, she has already had her frontal images taken.  The x-ray technician tells her, "You're gonna raise your left arm up and we're gonna put you right there at the side angle of the machine."  The tech heads back to the computer, takes the image and Mari is adjusted for the other side's positioning.

It takes about five minutes for the whole process.  "When I got here and had my first one," says Mari, "I realized it really isn't a big deal at all."  Kaye says, "It is uncomfortable, there is some pressure, but it's just not that bad."

So if you're a woman 40 or older, it's time to make mammograms part of your annual routine. It's quick, simple and could save your life.

*While breast self-exams can alert you to a suspicious area, mammograms can detect the cancer up to four years earlier than a lump can be felt.  To schedule a mammogram at the Breast Health Center, call 480-7444.