Monday, January 16, 2012

Of Mammography Suites and Anxiety

The Breast Center (aka mammography suite) at the clinic where I work is a lovely, modern and thoughtfully designed facility. Just inside the door is a small waiting room for those accompanying their  wives, girlfriends, mothers or friends to the procedure. Next is the registration desk, offset from the waiting room to preserve privacy. From there, the woman is escorted back to the dressing room area, given friendly, well rehearsed instructions on how to don the gown after undressing from the waist up and where to put the valuables. There are doors with locks on the well designed adjacent wall. The key attaches to a flexible pink plastic wrist-let which is worn into the inner sanctum, as I like to call it. This tastefully adorned room just for women-in-waiting invites. Lovely, comfortable chairs, soft lighting, and lots of magazines welcome the weary if not the slightly anxious. There's barely a sound to be heard.

And then, the summons. My turn and I'm led back into one of the exam rooms. Today I read the name on the machine: "Mammo-mat"; the vice that flattens that breast into a pancake. Nice. I've never seen the same technician twice in all these years of repeated mammograms. This one was prompt and efficient, going about her work with intention and care but little humor. Of course, she may have been reacting to my vibe which was serious and stoic.

Four views, two on each side. The images populated the screen within seconds and the technician showed me the pictures. I haven't a clue what's OK and what's not OK. I don't ask what she thinks much as I'd like to. She'd say she couldn't comment, I'm sure. I'll have to wait for the formal reading.

And then, it's over. Reverse order: past the inner sanctuary with other women quietly reading magazines to the re-dressing area and around the corner to the reception desk and out the door. I'm done. Slowly the anxiety creeps in. I feel it in my upper arms and shoulders, a tightening refusing to relax. Try as I might to divert my attention, the physical sensation will persist and my mind will periodically be pulled from the present moment to the future, the what if? question.

Two points:

The mammography suite has become an art form over the years; moving from a meager extension of the existing department of radiology to a distinct entity. Privacy is respected. No longer do women sit out in an exposed waiting room where the world walks by and the sign above reads "Mammography Department". The inner sanctum resembles a spa. If I weren't so edgy, I'd want to stay there all day and read magazines and ponder life, maybe with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at my side.

Secondly, I can't escape the escalating anxiety over the results. The waiting time is short, way shorter than most women wait to learn of their results but I'm a gal that wants most things NOW. Once I get the good news, all that tension is history and the mammography suite evaporates; until next year around the same time..

1 comment:

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