Don't you love that three-year ritual? When you are summoned to a mobile unit in a leisure centre or supermarket car park, to get draped by a nurse over this machine, naked from the waist up, your boobs then manoeuvred so that they will clamped between two plates that close together in a vice-like grip, while you hold your breath as instructed? And done twice, this way and that.
It was my turn the other day. My third breast scan. 2010, 2013 and now 2016. By my reckoning - since I will be sixty-four this year - I will face another two scans before I drop out of the national scanning programme for being too old. You can continue on request, though, and I will probably ask for that: I am not afraid to be tested for breast cancer. There's a natural aversion to knowing, but it's better in my view to have the scans, find the problem early, and deal with it forthwith; and not be head-in-the-sand about it.
Some women complain that having a breast scan hurts. And indeed for me, this time, it was pretty uncomfortable, more so than before. But I'd put on quite a bit of weight since the last scan, and so there was more flesh to squash. I was distinctly glad when the machine released me.
Not that the machine this time was in any way frightening to look at. The first scan back in 2010 was taken on what seemed to be an industrial press. It looked a bit fearsome. Not exactly an instrument from the torture-chambers of the Spanish Inquisition, supervised by Torquemada himself, and assisted by a capering hunchback on the lines of Quasimodo, but nevertheless a ruthless-looking and very clinical device impossible to love. This time, however, it was a swish futuristic affair with plenty of nice curves and clear plastic. It looked friendly and reassuring: intelligent even. A machine that had a job to do, but was programmed not to hurt. So it still held you firmly, but I wouldn't say its intent was to crush and destroy. And my goodness it did its job quickly and efficiently. It was all over sooner than expected.
Before beginning, the nurse had asked me various things about my breasts, including whether I'd had any surgery on them, or implants put in to enlarge them. It was pleasing to say no, that I was entirely natural. I had to say 'yes' however to the question about being on HRT - but I assured her that this was reviewed by my doctor every six months. That seemed to be the right kind of answer.
I'll know the result inside two weeks. I'm not expecting any bad news - but we'll touch wood on that!