Breast Experiences

Plasticine woman lying on her back looking exhausted - top half of her with brown hair, big blue eyes and blue coat

Seems that rolling in a wheel chair gives you immunity to neither breast cancer nor to the mammogram- the proven life saving breast cancer detection method.

None of us look forward to a mammogram but all of us should be grateful for the availability of such a life saving regular check up.

Breast Screen Australia offers biennial mammograms for every woman aged over 40 who does not have a history of breast cancer.
As I neatly fit this demographic and cannot use Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy as an excuse to avoid this undignified yet life saving invention I recently presented to my local clinic for my sixth pummelling.

Like hoards of fellow women folk my breasts have been manipulated in the name of cancer detection for about 12 years now. As a fully ambulant and younger woman this was initially disconcerting, frequently challenging and always uncomfortable.

For the majority of women a mammogram is performed while standing bare chested at a large vertical Mammography machine with a tilting horizontal tray designed for flopping those mamms onto – one squashed indignity at a time please. Once positioned in the most awkward fashion a corresponding plate is brought down from above and in most unforgiving terms squishes said gland. The radiographer then presses a few buttons on her keyboard and voila – our insides are now also on show for everyone concerned . You are required to twist and contort the upper torso, boob, arm and head in various directions until a photo worthy look has been achieved – depending on the size and density of your breast this could take some time. Then it’s time for the next one.

Green plasticine ball with arrow showing it becoming a tear drop shape
A rather pert before and during visual metaphor of the mammogram procedure


As I am now using a wheelchair and require assistance lifting my arms and undressing I have the availability of a seated mammogram using a similar looking machine to the standing Mammography Machine that has plates that lower further and allows for rolling under. The machine has a very funky ambient lighting glow with changing colours that wouldn’t be out of place in an Austin Powers movie. I could almost hear Barry White’s seductive tones as my very friendly and professional radiographer undressed my upper body.

The potential mood was broken by a colleague entering the room to assist with my manipulations. With deft and practised movements my manual wheelchair was tipped and angled, my arms were lifted and lengthened, stretched and splayed , my stomach was sucked into my spine, my head was turned a now almost impossible 135deg angle at times and my less than perfect yet well loved and previously useful knockers were ravished in a most unwelcome manner. I’m pretty sure this is what Wallace and Gromit felt like as they were being created – moulded, pressed and tugged. While my breasts were finally crushed, Wallace and Gromit managed to walk free.

White Mammography machine with control table and computer screen alongside

Mammography Machine and Radiography keyboard and screen

Levity aside, I am very grateful for the progressive thinking of Breast Screen in having such machines that ensure every single woman has the chance to survive a breast cancer diagnosis.In addition to the many women in my life that I know and have known an estimated 18,235 Australian women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2018 and with the survival rates being at an all time high this is one indignity that I am humbled to be able to participate in.




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