You see the pink everywhere-even on the football fields! All over the country people are walking for a cure. Did you give yet? Did you walk? Do you have breast cancer or know someone who has breast cancer? Everywhere we go we are reminded about breast cancer, on TV, in stores, and in the magazines we read. But until you get “the call” you don’t really know about breast cancer.
I went for my annual wellness exam in September. The doctor said everything looked good but that I should have a mammogram. So, we scheduled the appointment.
The mammogram was performed in a large motor home redesigned with a waiting area & small desk in the front, two waiting rooms in the middle and the equipment in the back. It was pretty handy, although I did get a bit claustrophobic in the waiting room.
Mammograms hurt. They put your breast between two flat plastic plates and squeeze. It only takes a few minutes but it is something most women dread each year. I went home describing my ordeal as “meeting Attila The Hun.”
The Call October 1, 2013
A week later on Tuesday afternoon I received a call from the doctor’s office. The radiologist wanted me to come back and have another mammogram. I have never received a call to come back before. I have to admit I was upset and scared. What had they found? And now, I wait.
I waited for just a few minutes until a woman came to the waiting room and called my name. She led me to the dressing room and then to a small, dark, room to perform the mammogram. She started by showing me her computer screen with a picture of my left breast and pointed out a small clump of silvery dots, called calcifications. They are usually nothing but the doctor just wanted to make sure. She explained that the area where the calcifications were found was deep inside my breast so it might be tricky to get more images but that we would give it a good try.
After the second mammogram I met with the radiologist right away. She explained that these were micro calcifications and were very normal especially as we get older; but in some instances it can be a sign of pre-cancer. She further explained that the technician who did the original mammogram did an excellent job because the findings were so deep in the breast, many times this would be missed. God bless Attila The Hun! The radiologist saw enough to order a biopsy.
My biopsy appointment was scheduled for the following Thursday. Time to wait, again. I was hoping this would be done at this point. I was very disappointed, and scared. The waiting is the worst part. Not knowing, trying not to go down that “rabbit hole” of worry. Trying to stay busy. “What if…..no, don’t go there yet.”
Stereotactic Core Biopsy October 10, 2013
Finally the biopsy day arrived. Here is a YouTube video of this type of procedure if you are interested. I wouldn’t say the biopsy was fun but it wasn’t the worst thing either. The anticipation was just as bad. I was placed on a table lying face down. The table was then raised so the technician and the doctor could do what they needed to do from underneath. It was difficult to get comfortable lying on my stomach. There is a small mammogram machine under the table and the technician set it up to locate the mass where they wanted to take the biopsy. Once the location was found, the breast was numbed and a large needle was inserted in the breast. At this point they really don’t want you to move. They took two samples, checking each time to make sure they had a good sample. Then, they placed a titanium chip in the area. Why? First, if they have to perform surgery, the chip takes the surgeon right to the spot. Second, if they find nothing this time, technicians will know that this area has already been looked at. The whole procedure took about 60 minutes. A little longer for me because of the location of the calcification. The worst part was my reaction to the epinephrine which is used in the numbing agent for bruising and swelling as well as my reaction to the tape they put on me after the procedure.
They sent me home with Tylenol, an icepack, and instructions to take it easy for the rest of the day and not lift anything heavier than my cell phone for 24 hours. I went home to rest on the couch, watching movies, thankful that this part was over. I spent a lot of the weekend resting as I was very sore and tired. And now, I waited again.
The Results October 15, 2013
Six days later the radiologist herself called me. She asked how I was doing (formality). And then she said she had some good news and some not so good news. The good news: they found NO cancer in the samples. What they found was fibroadenoma (not cancer). The not so good news: they could not completely rule out cancer and wanted another sample. I have three options: go back for the same stereotactic core biopsy, have a surgical biopsy, or wait six months and come back for another mammogram to see what’s happening in that area. The doctor said I could take some time to make a decision. So, what will I decide?