Monday, May 27, 2013

Diagnostic Mammogram Versus Dense Breast Tissue

It was Wednesday, May 1, the morning of my scheduled mammogram. I did all the things I would usually do when getting dressed for work, except one; I didn’t coat my underarms with deodorant, which made me feel slightly rebellious.  After dozens of mammograms over the years, I knew that I would be asked to remove my roll-on deodorant before the technician pulled and positioned my breasts between the compression arms of the mammogram machine. Not to worry, the breast center always has an off-brand of spray deodorant available for those, like me, who can’t bear a whole day without underarm protection.    

I arrived for my appointment at 7:30 a.m.  Fifteen minutes later, the “mammo” tech predictably pulled and positioned my breasts in the vice. She took several images of both breasts to compare with the mammogram from ten months earlier.  The tech then escorted me to a dark ultrasound room, where I laid horizontally on a gurney next to the ultrasound machine. She squeezed cold gel on my right breast and proceeded to slide the magic wand over it for a different view of the tissue. She did the same on the left breast. The process took about 15 minutes. She then told me that one of the radiologists would come and review the ultrasound she just completed. 

Marla Crider, breast cancer, blog, patient's story, advice for women, help for women
This example image from a mammogram (not Crider's)
shows an abnormality similar to what was discovered
in her breast. Doctors call it a "markedly hypoechoic
mass" that tends to "spread vertically" and has "fine
irregularities" around the edges of the lump.
A few minutes later, a dark complexioned doctor with a bushy mustache arrived with the tech. He squeezed more cold gel on my breasts and pulled out the magic wand again. As he moved the wand strategically over the right breast, Dr. Mustache directed the tech to freeze the images at certain magnifications. This went on for almost ten minutes.  He finally rubbed the cold gel off my breasts with a towel and asked me to sit up.  That’s when he said it.  “Ms. Crider, you have two suspicious lumps in your right breast that will require a needle biopsy to rule out cancer.” 

There it was… the “C” word, but it sure as hell didn’t stand for cyst. I didn’t hear much of what he said after the word cancer left his lips. My mind was whirling with a million thoughts, almost to the point of dizziness.  Over and over in my head, I kept saying to myself, “Who, me? Cancer?” 

Only 30 seconds or so had passed since he uttered the “C” word, but it seemed like hours.  I knew that I had to refocus and take control of the situation.  I asked Dr. Mustache to not pussy-foot around and show me what he was seeing on the ultrasound.  He pulled the images up on a large screen in his office.  As I sat next to him with the tech at my side, he showed me a large area that “echoed” and a smaller one adjoining it. The left breast showed no signs of anything abnormal.  Finally, some good news. (The “girl” on the left always was perkier.) I asked Dr. M to give me his professional opinion.  He said it might be invasive lobular cancer, which is the second most common type with invasive ductal carcinoma being first.  I kept my composure when he said it appeared to be a fast-growing tumor.  And, then he said he was sorry. Me, too, I said to myself.

The tech told me I could get dressed but first asked if I had any additional questions.  Really, I thought?  Only about a thousand of them! Instead, the tears started flowing.  The tech embraced me - not because it was her job but instinctively because she was a woman who understood.  

After dressing, the tech walked me to the front desk and told the scheduler that a needle biopsy was necessary. After checking my records again, the tech determined that since I take Vitamin E and Omega 3 each day, I would have to wait three days to ensure the supplements were out of my system. She explained that these particular supplements increase the possibility of bleeding.

The needle biopsy was scheduled for Monday, May 6, at 8:00 a.m.

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3 comments:

  1. Marla, I do not know you, and I have never been through most of what you are going through. I have dealt with what was called a "wire localization biopsy" of my left breast five years ago though, and remember the fear and anxiety. I just wanted to let you know that I am praying for you! I know I am not alone in those prayers. Much love and hugs, Jan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Marla, it is sad to know to read your story. I work as a sonographer in hospital. I understand what you feels and your tech feels. Much love from Lisa

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Marla