Apparently, I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, because I’ve coerced my doctors to check out my working parts several times in the last few months. In August I lifted a heavy suitcase and since then have had weird twinges in my stomach. That led me to go to the ER where they gave me an abdominal ultrasound.
When I was a kid, I was convinced I didn’t have blood and guts like everyone else. I thought I was different, like a super being. The fact is, I do, just like everyone else. When you think about it, every creature on Earth has almost the same organs. Even an amoeba has a digestive system.
They thought they saw something on my kidney and told me I should have a follow-up CT scan or MRI but didn’t think it was anything to worry about. Still, I was freaked out because even though all my other my blood tests have been normal, my non-African American eGFR test for kidney function has always been sluggish. I was elated when I got the word my CT scan was clear.
My hypochondria in overdrive
Despite all that I still felt like a ping pong ball was stuck in my right groin especially when I sat too long or lifted my leg. That made me worry that there was something was wrong with my ovaries. When I mentioned it to my doctor, she ordered a pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound. A transvaginal ultrasound is one of the best tests you can have for ovarian cancer. Every woman with ovaries should have one at least once.
This was my second time. The first time was because I thought I had a 25-year old fetus inside me making me fat. It turned out to be just fat. The procedure isn’t painful, but you have to drink 32 oz of water one hour before your scan. That isn’t easy if you’re over 50 and a sneeze could cause a tidal wave.
My scan was 20 minutes away from where I live in LA and I was terrified that I’d get stuck in traffic with a full bladder. I decided to arrive an hour early just in case. It was a good thing I did because after a while I started squirming and doing a potty dance like a 2-year old.
Just as I was about to rush to the desk and tell the receptionist I couldn’t hold it in, my name was called averting a “clean-up on aisle 6.” With my legs squeezed tight, I ran into the room. The technician told me to take my pants off and put on a gown. She quickly did the scan and rushed me into the bathroom where my pee tsunami unleashed itself.
Relieved, I went back to the room for the transvaginal ultrasound. Once I was lying down, the technician gave me a tip. She said some women have trouble filling up their bladder so that’s why they tell you to finish drinking an hour before the exam. Since I was good at producing pee, she suggested that next time I should start drinking a half hour later than recommended. Good to know but I wish I’d known that beforehand.
My transvaginal ultrasound and the magic wand
During a transvaginal ultrasound, the technician inserts a wand the size of John Holmes into your orifice. It has a camera on the end so they can see what’s going on with your ovaries. If you haven’t had any action for a long time (like a decade) it may be a scary thought. Luckily, it didn’t hurt, and it was good to know I still had a vagina.
I was told I wouldn’t get the results for a couple of days, but later in the evening, I got a ding in my email with a message from my doctor. No significant findings were detected. Yippee! I guess I just have a fat bubble in my right groin. Whatever it is, it isn’t life-threatening.
Vaginal exam nostalgia
During the late 1970s, when I was a struggling actor, (oh, right, I still am) I walked into the Hollywood Feminist Clinic to have an exam. It was free. I was taken into a room with several other women and we all sat around in a circle. Each of us was given a plastic speculum that we could take home to do self-exams. Then, they told us to take off our pants so we could learn how to insert the speculum into our twats. We were then supposed to walk around and inspect each other because the clear plastic speculum made it easy to see. The whole experience took “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to a whole new level.
Thinking back, that was truly bizarre. But then, the 70s was always a little weird. I’d much rather do a transvaginal ultrasound (alone) any day.
Why women over 50 should ASK their doctor for a pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound
- If your pelvic or abdominal exams were abnormal
- You have vaginal bleeding
- You have pelvic pain
- You think you may have a cyst or uterine fibroids
Not all doctors will automatically recommend you have an ultrasound so make sure to demand one if you’re worried. They are perfectly safe and radiation free.
All kidding aside, ovarian cancer is a serious disease. A friend of mine, whose daughter died from it at the age of 20 started The Ovarian Cancer Circle and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help find a cure. Visit her website here.
Have you had a pelvic or transvaginal ultrasound? What was your experience like? Please leave a comment below.