Mammograms or Why I Encourage Girls to Study Science

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and before this month is over, I’m getting my yearly mammogram.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and before this month is over, I’m getting my yearly mammogram. (Personally, I encourage all women over 30 to get mammograms, although the past recommended age was 40. I just read recently that women don’t need to start until they are 50. That just seems too late to me.)

I started getting my mammograms at age 30 since breast cancer runs in my extended family (two of my maternal aunts). As anyone who gets a mammogram knows, they are not exactly your idea of fun. In fact, they are very painful because your breast gets smashed between two plates. I don’t mean squished–I mean smashed as much as it can possibly be smashed. And let me tell you (men, are you listening?), it hurts like a bee-yatch. In fact, there have been times I thought I would pass out from the pain. The only saving grace is that it takes seconds, AND the technicians I’ve worked with are very nice and try to make it as comfortable as possible.

I think every woman should get a mammogram, no matter how painful. I would never discourage women from doing so. It is so critical to your health and well-being. That being said, as I was standing there with my right boob smashed and compressed into a thin sheet of skin paper, I thought to myself, “Ha! I bet a man invented the mammogram. Because a woman would never have created this torture machine. A man would because he doesn’t actually have to experience it.” (This is also the part where I rant about encouraging young girls in science and math—they are the hope for our mammogram future!)

And guess what? I’m right. In fact, there are several men to blame for this contraption. Albert Saloman, a German surgeon, was the first to use X-ray technology to detect breast cancer. From there, a list of men use X-ray technology and further developed the testing. As for the typical screening machines we use now, we can thank Patrick Panetta and Jack Wennet.

I know, I know. I’m complaining about a test that potentially saves lives. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have these machines. I just think there’s got to be a better way. And actually, there might be. New techniques are currently in development, ones that are based on MRI technology, PET scans, and even light technology. While none of these will be ready in time for my mammogram this year, I’m feeling optimistic about next year! (Come on girls who love science, I’m counting on you!)

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