My Doctor Ordered a Mammogram...But I'm A Guy

In my opinion, every guy should have the experience of having a mammogram at a women’s clinic… never.

When I think back in my lifetime to all the uncomfortable experiences I have encountered, few can rival walking into a clinic designed for women to have a mammogram. From the moment I walked in, I knew this would be a life-altering series of events. I showed up for my two o’clock appointment. If I could have read the receptionist’s mind, it might have gone something like this:

Receptionist: “Sir, do you know where you are? You are standing in a women’s clinic.”

Me: “Hi, I’m Bill Rotter and I am here for my mammogram.”

Receptionist: “Sir, I don’t think this is funny!”

Me: “Do you see me laughing? And by the way, you may want to check your bedside manner….” (under my breath, of course)

She then proceeded to tell me to go to the waiting room, and that I would be called soon. I remember entering a room accented in pink, filled with women of all ages that stared at me like I was completely naked. It would have been one thing if I was there with my wife, as surely I would have been there for her moral support and that may have been acceptable. But no one spoke a word, which in my mind meant they all wanted me to leave and respect their safe place. I chose a seat in a corner and went to look for a Sports Illustrated or Car and Driver magazine on the table next to me. Who was I kidding, neither existed in this waiting room...

Almost an hour went by, and women came and went. As each new woman entered, I’m sure they wondered to themselves what I was doing there. I finally found my courage and went back to my new receptionist friend to ask why I had not been called as of yet. She informed me that she had placed a call to my doctor. Apparently, my doctor only ordered the mammogram on my breast with the lump, and the procedure called for having a mammogram on both breasts. I wanted to ask the receptionist why she didn’t tell me this earlier, but didn’t bother. I pulled out my cellphone, called my doctor’s office, and spoke to his assistant to have the order corrected. A few moments later the necessary order came through, and after a short wait I was finally called in for my mammogram.

As I entered the room, there was a large apparatus like nothing I had seen before. My middle-aged technician looked at me and mentioned that she had only had a few male patients for mammograms before me. She offered the disturbing news that mine may be rather difficult, due to my small breasts. Not exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. Despite this the mammogram went as well as expected, considering I really had nothing to compare it to. The technician was wonderful, and I jokingly remembered telling her that I would highly recommend her to all my male friends.  

I was put into another waiting room while the radiologist read my mammogram. After a short time, the radiologist entered and said she did not like what she had seen. She highly recommended an ultrasound to provide more clarity. I asked if it could be done right away – I didn’t want to go back to the waiting room where all the good magazines were in use. I felt like I really needed to keep my sense of humor, because I did not have a good feeling about what was to come. The radiologist was able to accommodate me, and a few minutes later I experienced my first ultrasound. It turned out to be a much easier procedure than my mammogram.

A week later, I had a biopsy to verify what the radiologist had predicted. It confirmed that I had breast cancer, all of which can be found in my first post entitled “A Male Breast Cancer Perspective.”

As I write this blog, it may appear that I did not enjoy my mammogram experience at the women’s clinic. I have to admit, aside from my first impression with the receptionist and the lack of good reading material, the entire team was fantastic – beginning with the technician, the nurse navigator, the nurses, and the radiologist. They all displayed a genuine interest in me from the moment I stepped out of the waiting room.

My sarcasm and satire is my attempt at sharing my level of difficulty at having breast cancer as a male. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate, so it was challenging to have my initial testing done in a women’s clinic. I suppose I should be grateful on one hand, though, because many people faced with the fear of a cancer diagnosis do not have the ability to be treated near home within their community and are forced to travel great distances. My hope is that as we become more aware of the genetic component to cancer, we will become more sensitive to the fact that cancer does not discriminate.

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