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Dreading Your Annual Mammogram? Grab a "Bosom Buddy"

Why you should bring a friend to your next breast exam.

A woman with blonde hair and a woman with dark hair pose cheek to cheek for a photo. Small cartoon hearts float above their heads.
Linda Mattera and Maria Savino are "breast" friends who go to their annual mammograms together. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Linda Mattera and Maria Savino
We see the back of a doctor's head and back. She is wearing blue hospital scubs, a mask and a hair covering. She is looking at a mammogram image on a lightbox on the wall.

Mammograms are no walk in the park.

For the past eight years, Linda Mattera and Maria Savino have never missed a yearly mammogram appointment. That's because they always go together—no matter what.

When Linda broke her ankle this past November, Maria rescheduled their appointment. "When I couldn't go, Maria said, 'Oh no, I'm waiting for you!'" says Linda.

"If it weren't for Linda, I wouldn't go at all," says Maria, who prioritizes their special outings because they are about being together and ensuring that they both get this important screening test. In this way, they are taking care of each other.

The two friends met 11 years ago at work. "We worked in the same department and got transferred together—so every time they did a reorg, we'd get moved around, and we bonded through that," Linda explains.

But how did friendly office conversation turn into a yearly trip for a very personal visit?

"You know how girls talk," says Linda. "Maria was in the market for a new doctor and before we knew it, we were getting our mammograms together.” They made a day out of it, which concluded with a shopping trip. "We had such a good time, we decided to make an annual tradition of it," she says.

Both women live in Queens and work in New York City, so they commute together to their appointments in New Hyde Park. "It's nice to have somebody with you," says Linda. "We turn it into a road trip."

“The women who come together are more likely to keep coming year after year because they have someone to hold them accountable. ”
Aimee Botsch, Mammography Technologist

Seeing two women come together for their annual mammogram is a trend that Aimee Botsch, manager of breast imaging at Northwell Health Imaging, has noticed throughout the course of her career. "The women who come together are more likely to keep coming year after year because they have someone to hold them accountable," she says. "I've seen patients make appointments for themselves and the person they come with at the same time."

In addition to accountability, Botsch thinks that bringing a bosom buddy with you actually helps the technician get a better image. "You're not talking about the exam while you're waiting—you're engaging with your friend or mother or sister about anything else under the sun, and that keeps your body at ease," Botsch explains. "When you're anxious, your shoulders drive up into your ears and that makes it harder to position the breast tissue.” When you’ve been chatting with your friend or sister, on the other hand, your body stays in a relaxed state.

Thankfully, both Linda and Maria have gotten a clean bill of health during their past eight visits together. But going to an appointment where there's potential for bad news is another reason why Linda always goes with her friend. "Doctor's visits can be unnerving," she says. "You go in to find out if something is wrong with you, or if something needs to get fixed. So you're looking for something bad. Say I found out something and I needed to have somebody with me—Maria would be there."

Since they first started mammograming together, the two have developed a fun routine. "We get checked out, grab lunch, go shopping and forget all about it until next year," Linda says.

So, what makes a good bosom buddy? For Linda, it's someone who's caring, supportive, and holds you accountable. "Sometimes things come up where you can't go—and then we would reschedule. And if one of us changed it, we both changed it, because we wanted to be there for each other for support," she says.

A yearly mammogram is critical for early breast cancer detection. As Botsch puts it, bringing someone along who may not have made an appointment otherwise can potentially be life changing. "You might be saving a life if you say to a friend, 'Have you had your mammo yet? Why don't we go together?'"

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Published April 17th, 2018
We see the back of a doctor's head and back. She is wearing blue hospital scubs, a mask and a hair covering. She is looking at a mammogram image on a lightbox on the wall.

Mammograms are no walk in the park.