X is for X-ray

April 28, 2014 at 10:06 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family History, Health, Ways of Living | 13 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]



Old chect X-ray machine

Back in the 1950s and 60s, tuberculosis (TB) was still a problem disease in Australia. I didn’t know until a couple of years ago that my grandmother had it and that we were exposed to it for some years by being close to her.

Modern mobile TB testing unit in UK

Mobile TB testing unit in the U.K.

I remember when we were young, there was a TB truck that visited country towns, where people would have a Mantoux test to see if there was any infection. It was a prick with a needle that put non-active tuberculin derivitave under the skin. The area would have a small reaction and swelling if there was no TB infection and a larger swelling if there was. I will always associate the smell of cleansing alcohol with that truck.

Mantoux test 01

It also had an X-ray set-up, where anyone with a positive reaction to the Mantoux test would have an X-ray to see if there was any active TB. My father usually had to have one, though he never had active TB.

X-ray of lungs showing TB

X-ray of lungs showing TB

Whenever he had one of those X-rays, and also any routine chest X-ray, Dad was always recalled for a follow-up, because he had scarring on the lungs. This wasn’t from TB however, but was a legacy of the severe pneumonia he’d suffered and almost died from as a young child (Story here).


I suppose many of us have had X-rays taken at various times to check out an injury or a possible internal problem. Lots of people, just in the course of day-to-day living have fractured a limb, had chest X-rays for a necessary medical examination, or needed checking for something more serious.

BreastScreen NSW-logo

Quite a few years ago in Australia, in an attempt to reduce the death rate from breast cancer, the Federal government brought in testing of women between the ages of 50 and 74. Every two years, we can have a free X-ray – mammogram – to detect the presence of any lumps or anomalies.

In large towns and cities there are Screening Clinics. In smaller country towns and rural areas, just as the TB truck did, a large BreastScreen truck makes regular visits, staying for a few days or a week to complete the appointment list previously booked. I took advantage of this and had my regular checks when the reminder came that it was time.

Mobile BreastScreen unit, NSW.

Mobile BreastScreen unit, NSW.



In January 2009, I had my mammogram as usual (fellas, try squashing your privates between two cold flat plates!) Previous X-rays had shown nothing, so there was no following letter. But this time, they had found something they wanted to follow up on.

Another mammogram to see if they saw the same anomaly – they did – followed by an ultrasound scan –  it was still there – followed by a biopsy (all on the same day) and I was given the news that I did indeed have a cancerous lump.

whoever_said_breast_cancer winner

I am happy to say that the cancer was contained and surgery removed it. I was advised to undergo chemotherapy as well as radio-therapy, as I had two indicators  plus family history, that made it more likely there may be problems if even one cancer cell remained, even after the surgery. I undertook those treatments (and suffered from the well-known ‘chemo brain’), plus hormone therapy.



For the next five years I had free mammograms and ultra-sound examinations every year. In March this year, I said goodbye to my oncologists, as I am now considered cancer-free. I am a cancer survivor. However, I can still have free annual X-rays to find any new lumps that may develop.

I will be grateful for whatever pain and discomfort the mammogram causes. My father’s mother and sister didn’t have the chance to make a recovery from their breast cancers because they didn’t have the tests to catch them early enough for treatment.

I have been given the chance for a life that they didn’t have. I will make the most of it.


Have you had much experience of X-rays?  Has an X-ray saved someone in your family?


© Linda Visman 28.04.14  (695 words)


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