I had my second postmastectomy mammogram on Wednesday. Mammograms have never scared me and they still don’t. I wondered if they might once I had breast cancer, but there’s comfort in routine. Same room, same tech, same digital mammogram equipment with the oddly beautiful name Selenia.
One thing has changed. Because of the mastectomy, only the breast on the right side needs a mammogram. When I reminded the tech I had an implant–I had it augmented and lifted so they’d match better–she had to figure out how to bill me. “It isn’t a screening anymore,” she said.
“But I’m still getting screened for cancer,” I said.
She agreed but said now it’s called a diagnostic because of the implant, which explains the letter I got two days later. It said the results are normal/benign, “however, the area of concern in your breast that prompted this exam should be further evaluated by your physician or other health care provider.” They had it in bold type for extra emphasis. Then they said the area of concern “should not be ignored despite a normal mammogram.”
I had to read it twice because it sounded pretty harsh for a good news letter. I briefly thought, “What area of concern? What the heck are you people talking about?” Then I remembered that because of the implant, my visit was classified as a diagnostic visit, not a routine screening. Although I now understand why I got the diagnostic form letter instead of the routine screening form letter, it was a bit jarring. And the tone could stand some improvement in any case. A simple one would be removing all the bold type. If something has prompted a diagnostic mammogram, we get it that we need to pay attention. I”m pondering contacting them with some friendly editing advice.
The other thing I’m wondering about is how the costs of my diagnostic mammogram compare to the costs of a screening mammogram. We used to joke about half-price mammograms after the mastectomy, but I think the opposite might be true. The radiology tech explained that they had to take more pictures. True, but you’re taking pictures of one breast when you used to take pictures of two. I didn’t get into that with her because she is a very nice person and doesn’t make the rules, but I plan to find out what the cost differences are. Call me jaded but I wonder if the diagnostic mammogram doesn’t cost more. I’d be happy to be wrong.