Most people don’t use the word “mammogram,” in the same sentence as the words “fun” and “party.” But I am about to do that when I say that on Tuesday night, Feb. 15, I attended a fun mammogram party at the .
I get many of my best ideas while I’m running, and the idea for this event first came about when Vicki Avak Connors, who is a marketing representative for the Imaging Center of West Hartford, was on one of her morning runs with her friend Leslie Hadra. They were discussing their busy lives, and Hadra mentioned that she was long overdue for her mammogram. “I have just too many other things to do,” Hadra said. “But you have time for bunko,” countered Connors. “But that’s because it’s a chance to hang out with my friends,” said Hadra.
Connors took that thought back to a brainstorming session which focused on how to encourage more women to get mammograms on a regular basis. The marketing reps thought that if women could bring their friends – their support group – and turn it into an opportunity for socializing, women might be more likely to get their mammograms.
The idea for the party was born. Hadra agreed to host. “I went on a mission, and invited my neighborhood gang.” The idea was a hit. Some women who weren’t even due for their annual mammograms came along anyway. “I’m just here to support my friends,” said Caroline Gaetano. Tammy Kroll had recently had a mammogram, but wanted to support her friends, too.
The spa-like atmosphere of the occasion also added to its appeal. Attendees sipped wine or sparkling water, nibbled on cheese and crackers, and were treated to a massage by licensed massage therapist David Hoff of Allied Therapeutic Massage. The women donned luxurious terry robes rather than paper gowns when they slipped behind closed doors for the mammogram part of the evening.
Each mammogram took 10-15 minutes, and the Imaging Center of West Hartford, which typically closes at 5 p.m. (6 p.m. on Mondays), had two technicians working for the evening. The women came back to the waiting room in their robes while the technicians checked the clarity of the images.
Radiologist Alisa Siegfeld was on hand to answer questions, but said that she and the test results would not be reviewed until the next day. She said that any need for any additional testing would be communicated privately. “If the results show a density rating of more than 50% for the breast tissue, the patient will be able to schedule an ultrasound at their convenience,” Dr. Siegfeld said.
Dr. Siegfeld thinks the mammogram party is a great idea. “Having the support of your friends or co-workers can really reduce the anxiety,” she said. Dr. Siegfeld hopes the parties will encourage women to come in more often, especially those who tend to avoid the test because of their fears.
Despite some recent reports in the media, most in the medical community still support women getting their first baseline mammogram at age 40 – or even earlier based on the patient’s family history. Dr. Siegfeld also recommends that women continue getting their mammograms on an annual basis, beginning at age 40.
Ten of Hadras friends attended, and eight got mammograms. In the waiting room, they chatted about their kids and the weather, as well as about the mammogram party.
Comments were universally positive. “How come it just seemed so much nicer?” asked Laura LeBlanc of Westbrook. “The massage was great, wonderful, awesome, all of the above,” said Alison Jamin. “That massage was really good!” agreed Paula Stabnick.
“I’m good about going every year and am not one of those people who puts it off. But this just makes it much more fun,” said Diane Beir of Avon.
“It was nice to share a couple of hours with friends, being pampered while having an important test for my health and wellbeing. The Imaging Center was friendly and so supportive,” said Liz Schwab.
“We are all planning on coming back next year,” said Helen Rubino-Turco.
Connors already has another volunteer hostess, and hopes to continue scheduling mammogram parties at the West Hartford site. Connors herself said she would join one of the parties next year. “I don’t want to have mine alone, either,” she said.
As she headed home, Joanne Kuntz asked, “So when is the colonoscopy party?”