HUNTERSVILLE – Scheduling a cancer screening probably ranks somewhere on your to-do list between “clean out the garage” and “donate those clothes that don’t fit.” Sure, you’ll get to it at some point.
October rolled around faster than I anticipated, and once I started seeing Breast Cancer Awareness Month social media posts, I realized I was 11 months past due for my first mammogram. My primary care doctor told me at my 40th birthday well-check that I should receive information in the mail about scheduling with a radiologist. I tucked that information in the back of my brain and promptly forgot about it.
Weeks and months passed, and no instructions came. I consider myself knowledgeable about many things, but I’m embarrassingly uninformed on cancer screenings despite losing both grandmothers to cancer.
I took what seemed the most logical next steps – checking my insurance company’s website for information on preventative cancer screenings and my online chart for my medical group. Neither pointed me in the direction of scheduling a screening.
So I Googled “How to schedule a mammogram.” Fortunately, information for both Novant Health and Atrium Health, the largest health care providers in the region, made the top five results.
My provider partners with Charlotte Radiology, which offers a self-scheduler right on its homepage. I was able to make an appointment less than a week out at the very convenient Rosedale location in Hodges Circle. I received a text and email confirmation with instructions (no deodorant, lotions or powders the day of) a short time later. Charlotte Radiology sent several text reminders throughout the week.
The day of the appointment, I arrived early to find the designated parking lot was full. I drove back toward the road and found street parking, but I soon discovered parking turnover is quick for Charlotte Radiology. The building had plenty of directional signage and brochures on screenings – great for anyone totally new to the process!
Check-in, even for a new patient, was fast and simple, so I sat down and grabbed some information to read while waiting with a handful of other women. To my surprise, some of my assumptions about breast cancer were wrong. Did you know 75 percent of women who develop breast cancer have no family history? With all the news about BRCA gene mutations being linked to breast cancer, I assumed genetics would play a stronger role.
The wait was short, and the appointment in total took much less time than I expected. From when I was called by a technologist to the time I left the building was only approximately 20 minutes. Now making time for a cancer screening no longer seems like a valid excuse.
Charlotte Radiology uses an all-female staff of technologists to help women feel at ease, and photos are prohibited to protect the privacy of patients. So, imagine if you will, a set of roomy dressing rooms next to large rooms with tall 3D mammogram machines.
The friendly technologist asked me a few standard questions and helped me get positioned in the machine. As the technologist warned, the positions weren’t terribly comfortable and I felt lots of pressure, but each image only took a few seconds while I held my breath to keep still. As far as medical visits go, it was mostly easy breezy.
I wasn’t sure whether I would have to choose a type of mammogram but found that Charlotte Radiology uses 3D technology as its standard of care and offers it at all its locations, including its mobile breast center. According to Charlotte Radiology, its clinical data showed a 35 percent increase in the cancer detection rate with such advanced imaging. As with any cancer, early detection is key for the best possible outcome.
I had my results within 48 hours – all clear! They appeared in my healthcare provider’s digital chart, but I also could have created an account through Charlotte Radiology’s patient portal for quick access to the results.
As with anything, the unknown is usually the worst part. A screening could easily be accomplished during a lunch break, so no excuses! Spending a half-hour once a year at a radiology center could just save your life.