Today I had my baseline mammogram...chances are many of you readers should too. If you've had more x-rays than you can count when the exposure was higher, all kinds of radioactive dyes pumped in, other hormonally influenced gynecological cancers or pre-cancers, and/or family history, you may want to consider getting your baseline earlier than age 40--the old recommendation was age 35. At least in the U.S. (and I hope increasingly in other countries), many newer mammogram machines allow you to roll right up in your wheelchair or sit in a chair. If you have chronic pain, you may hardly notice--I didn't, though some people may have increased sensitivity to pain.
-Go when pain is lowest for you, especially with the shoulders and spine. My right shoulder is killing me already--that bothered me worse than the breast squishing.
-Ask for a double appointment time (they can book you for two slots), explaining that you are in a wheelchair or have a disability. This means no one is rushed.
-Rather than try to fit yourself into a somewhat accessible changing room, ask to change in the mammography room. I actually do this for all of my radiology--much easier, no injuring joints or spine by trying to maneuver awkwardly in tight spaces.
-Try to schedule on a day when you already have another medical appointment, thirty to forty-five minutes in advance. These don't take long, and no need to trek out on a separate visit. In the U.S., you don't have to get it ordered in conjunction with a doctor's visit in order for insurance to pay; these are covered under your well-woman care and you can just schedule with the radiology center.
-Explain to the tech(s), if it causes you pain to be moved, how you need to move yourself. Yeah, I didn't explain in advance and I will in the future; unlike with AB's, it hurts if someone helps me forward rather than telling me where they want me so that I can move there.
-Before each view, turn the wheelchair off or brake after your chair is positioned, before your upper body is positioned. No need to be compress more of yourself; only the girls should be wafer thin and only temporarily. If you've ever smashed yourself into a table or wall, you know here is not the place you would want to do it.
-If you have dysautonomia or otherwise pass out easily with added physiological stress, warn the techs so they can have another tech nearby. While I did not have any problem, I did tell them, and others might have more difficulty.
-If you really have problems positioning yourself (from paralysis, muscle weakness, or joint fusion), take an attendant or family member who is accustomed to positioning you so that they can help without harming you. I did okay but could see that others who are more physically limited could have some difficulty or may need an extra hand to provide support to their arm.
In the 1990s, there were no mammogram machines that accommodated wheelchairs; other wheelie women advocated so they (and we!, younger wheelies) can be screened. Nearly a decade ago back one of my wheelchair using friends could not have a mammogram despite a worrisome lump because such a machine was not available in her area. The times are changing: for you. Having one health condition doesn't mean you can't have others--it makes them more likely. There's a high survival rate with early detection, however, so get your screenings done.
No insurance? Find low cost or free mammograms at this link: http://www.breasthealthonline.com/cgi-bin/mwf/topic_show.pl?tid=48879