Having a breast scan – what is it like?
Having a breast scan – what is it like?
The first thing I notice about having a breast scan is how many women there are in the waiting room. We're all in pink or purple gowns and naked underneath from the waist up, ready for our breast screening scans or biopsies.
I booked an early appointment before work, but even at that early hour there at least 15 women waiting. The TV has the morning news but all heads are cast downward reading, except for a pink-gowned lady whose companion is quietly encouraging her to stand up for herself, to tell someone “don’t talk to me in that tone because it’s abusive”. Every now and again a name is called out and one of the women stands and follows a helper down the hall to a treatment room. The names, like breast cancer, are global: Schumacher, Chang, Brown, and our ages are dotted across the decades from 40 to 80. All of us are there because of signs or symptoms in our breasts that need investigating.
The staff are kind and gentle, the room is comfortable with a wall of glass looking out to a garden full of colour and natural light to sit and look upon. And sit we do: we were all instructed to allow 3 hours for the appointment. In my first half hour I had some X-rays followed by a breast examination with a doctor who let me know I would be meeting later with another doctor for a report on the tests.
I don't feel like I have breast cancer but I do feel worried. It wasn’t a lump or changes in my breasts that brought me to having a breast scan. When I turned 50 a letter came from the State Health Department inviting me to have a mammogram. Women over 50 in Australia automatically become part of an extensive breast screening system. Current statistics for breast cancer show that one in eight women in your workplace, standing in line at the shops or waiting alongside you at the bus stop, will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It's not a club anyone wants to join, but what if membership is not bestowed accidentally, punitively, randomly or mistakenly, but is part of a bigger picture about women’s self nurturing?
I had my first breast scan a few weeks before and my doctor had told me not to worry if I got a call back. The doctors use the scans to establish a baseline of information on the inner geography of our breasts and sometimes the initial scans are not comprehensive or clear enough. When a call back did come though it was a surprise, and despite knowing it was ‘normal’ and common for first timers to be recalled, it freaked me out.
We made an appointment for more extensive breast screening at the next available time, which was 2 days later – I’ve heard some women wait up to two weeks for an appointment. I sat in my car on the side of the road suddenly wanting ice cream. But I know how it feels on the other side of a tub of ice cream. What I really wanted was comfort. I felt scared and alone and ice cream was a go to for me for taking the edge off uncomfortable feelings. Instead of ice cream therapy I went to the root of the worry and called the clinic back, let them know my mind was racing and asked them for some more information. They were steady and helpful and confirmed what my doctor had told me at the start – recalls are normal.
There are moments in life that shatter any illusion that our bodies are invincible and this was one of those moments. I shared the news with some friends at work, with my husband and a girlfriend but there was no way I was going to tell my mum or sister until I had more information – I didn't want them to worry until I knew there was something to worry about.
In the second part of my first hour I had another two trips to the scanning room, pivoting and adjusting my upper body and breast against the machine at different angles as directed to achieve the required image. The machine was cold but it was the pressure of a spherical breast being sandwiched flat that really hurt and there was no breathing through it because everything needs to be held still for the imaging to work.
Each time it was over I thanked the operator, slipped my purple robe on and walked back to my seat. I wondered what I was thanking them for: thanks for sandwiching my breast? Thanks for the awkward position, the cold machine? It wasn't any of these things of course, I was thanking them for the fact that they were aware that the whole situation was uncomfortable but necessary and went about making it as smooth, respectful and as brief as possible. An equal part of medicine is the way we are cared for by health professionals and care for ourselves in the process.
Each time my name was called I’d think it’s finally verdict time, but when it turned out to be another breast scan the worried feeling I’d been trying to keep a lid on went up a notch: why so many scans? What's wrong? Each time I returned to my seat in the sunny lounge room, I felt a little more emotional, vulnerable and exhausted as my body stewed in a brewing chemistry of rising anxiety. I wanted to keep myself together, not let myself get ahead of the moment or too far down an as yet non-existent diagnosis of breast cancer, but I was having a breast scan on repeat and was yet to understand from experience that scanning can be a slow and repetitive process and that more scans does not mean a breast cancer diagnosis.
One thought that kept me company is how many millions of women across the world have found themselves sitting in a breast screen waiting room. The reality is, breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and support are systemised globally for the increasing volume of women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis.
When a husband strayed into the lounge his wife quickly let him know that he needed to wait outside. The lounge was a place for women only but, as that husband’s face and body language showed, breast cancer impacts husbands, partners, parents, children, grandchildren and all those whose lives each woman is part of: work colleagues, friends and the many other people we share our daily lives with.
Family affected by cancer
What if when we look at cancer statistics instead of numbers we see people and the profound effect it has on everyone?
A few hours after arriving I learnt that the scans and tests showed some small benign cysts in my left breast. At first I did not know if this meant I had cancer or not. It turned out that these cysts were of no concern medically and this made it a ‘successful’ outcome that I could walk away from without needing to do anything. Whilst greatly relieved, I felt these benign cysts weren’t ‘nothing’. They were clearly something to pay attention to and question: if there are no accidents, no luck bad or good, then how come I have this?
Having benign cysts instead of breast cancer may seem like a ‘get out of jail free card’, but what if they are on the same spectrum and, instead of being nothing are actually part of an early warning system signalling a disturbance that if left will continue to build?
Science has proven that before matter there is energy and it makes sense to see breast cysts, or any complication in the body, as coming from energy. Understanding ourselves as energetic beings first brings a wider perspective to illness and disease. When the way we are physically, mentally and emotionally is known to be the product of energy, we get to look at and respond to illness and disease differently. Incorporating the element of energy into the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions, naturally focusses us on perceiving and arresting the ill energy instead of making its symptoms the bad guy and thinking that once we manage to take them out all is well again.
“Healing is to remove the energy that enters your body and stops you being you. It is for you to then stop it from entering again – by sealing the emotional entry points it seeks.”Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 480
It is never too late to start taking our precious selves and the quality of energy we choose to live in seriously, without needing something serious to happen to us first. Instead of waiting for a breast cancer diagnosis to stop me in my tracks, I want to be having a breast scan in a year or two’s time that shows no cysts – not by some miracle, but by addressing the ill energy behind them. Exploring the daily habits and behaviours, the unreal ideals, beliefs and expectations at play that brew and build harmful energy in our bodies via anxiety, self-doubt, worry, hurt, stress, rushing, trying, holding back, overloading, keeping up, giving up or simply saying yes when I mean no, is not a treatment found in our medicine cabinet, but found by becoming a constant and loving observer of what’s going on inside ourselves.
There are no pills to take to treat the benign cysts that having a breast scan reveals, but there is real medicine in seeing the patterns and behaviours that lead to the energy that contributes to their development and then slowly but surely replacing them with ones that develop and build healthy energy – the kind that leave us feeling confident, lovely and content throughout our body, connecting us with our innate beauty, power and worth.