Dr. Laura Pearson and Dr. Sharon Harley

I confess: I am over age 50, and I have never had a mammogram. After a year of being scolded by Dr. Sharon Harley at the Women’s Specialty Clinic, I finally made an appointment for my first mammogram. But not just because I was tired of hearing Dr. Harley’s voice; I got my first mammogram because I want to live.

Breast cancer is the #1 killer of women. Your chances of surviving breast cancer increases significantly if it is caught early. By the time you are diagnosed with cancer it is too late for early detection.

The National Cancer Institute recommends annual mammograms for women over 40. Women who have a family history of cancer should have an MRI and a mammogram annually beginning at age 30.

When I made the decision to get my first mammogram, I chose an expert in her field: Dr. Laura Pearson, the Medical Director of North Fulton Hospital’s Breast Program (pictured above left).

I decided if I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted a doctor who was also a surgeon so she would be involved in every aspect of my care from diagnosis to the operating room.

Yesterday, I went to see Dr. Pearson at North Fulton Hospital. After examining my breasts, she sent me to the adjoining building to get my mammogram done.

I was nervous and it showed. Everyone told me not to worry — even the janitor. Yes, they assured me, mammograms do hurt. But the momentary agony of having your breasts crushed between hard plastic is nothing compared to surgery.

The pain is not unbearable, unless you’re on your period and your breasts are sensitive, then I imagine it would be very unbearable. But you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever an hour before your scan to alleviate the discomfort.

My radiology technician was very nice and very informative. She put my mind at ease by assuring me that the crushing pain would only last “about 20 seconds.”

I thought the worst part was over — until the technician showed me my scans and I noticed a spot on my right breast. She told me the radiologist wanted more specific scans of my right breast, and furthermore, she said that I was not a doctor so calm down. Everything would be alright.

After she took the new scans to the radiologist, I had 5 minutes to contemplate whether I wanted a funeral or cremation.

It seemed like an hour, but 5 minutes later the technician walked back into the room with a big smile on her face. Everything was fine, she said. The new scans were normal. But the radiologist wants to see me again in 6 months for a follow up scan.

I’m glad I finally got my first mammogram. I urge you to get a mammogram if you are over age 40. It could save your life.