Breast cancer – Get your mammograms – annually!

Probably the most important event in my life in the last few years was being diagnosed with breast cancer 29 May 2018. (Funny how I used the exact date and not just the year.  Guess it’s one that will forever stick in my mind).  It was a shock, but not as much as you’d think it’d be.  When I had my mammogram in March, somehow I knew.  It wasn’t any more painful than usual, no sign from the tech, just a feeling I had.  I learned some time ago to always trust these feelings. (As a reminder of my intuitions and feelings read my 3:11 post.) http://www.arlenepretty.ca/three-eleven-311-a-lifelong-connection/

I always go annually for my mammogram. Like the nurse at my doctor’s office told me years ago when I asked her how often I should go, she said: “I just go when they send me the reminder.”  I have followed her advice since that day way back when. Thankfully that’s the case.  If I was going every two years my situation would have been a whole lot different.

After my mammogram I did the usual waiting.  No news is good news right?  I didn’t get my usual follow up letter saying it was normal and that my doctor had been advised.  Instead I got the dreaded call.  “They want you to come in for more testing.” What does that mean?

Having been through this a couple years ago, I knew what it meant.  It meant a diagnostic mammogram.  Even then I knew that something was wrong.  They gave me an appointment right away.  That’s always a good thing.  So I had the diagnostic mammogram. 

It’s a little different than the annual screening mammogram that we all have. The procedure is similar, but more detailed. Then you sit and wait while the radiologist examines the pictures and decides if they need another picture, your clear and can go on your way, or you need to come back for an ultrasound.  While I was waiting, I just knew.

Then the nurse goes back and forth between rooms and her smile turned to a neutral face.  Hmmm, not good I thought.  Then she comes to me with a piece of paper stating that I need to come in for the ultrasound.  That’s the next step. Having been through this before, I knew that was the next step.  So I booked the appointment for that.  

I’d been through this routine a couple years before and it turned out to be nothing.  So I was hopeful that this would be the case again, but I couldn’t help this feeling I was getting.

So, I go to the ultrasound and the technician is quiet as a mouse as they usually are.  Then I heard the dreaded “hmmm” while she was waving her wand over the same spot over and over.  Then the “You’re doctor will get the results in 2-3 business days.”  Yikes! That didn’t sound good.  Again the waiting… 

I didn’t have to wait long, the doctor called me the next day.  He told me that they found something and I needed to go for a biopsy.  A biopsy!  What does that mean?  I didn’t have to do that before so I had no idea what to expect.  More waiting was to be the next step.  I got an appointment for my biopsy at Jim Pattison Breast Health Clinic in Surrey.

Stay tuned for my next segment: Breast Cancer – The biopsy.

I have attached some info from the National Breast Cancer Foundation below.  It explains the procedure much better than I could.

What is the difference between a diagnostic mammogram and a screening mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. While screening mammograms are routinely administered to detect breast cancer in women who have no apparent symptoms, diagnostic mammograms are used after suspicious results on a screening mammogram or after some signs of breast cancer alert the physician to check the tissue.

Such signs may include:

  • A lump

  • Breast pain

  • Nipple discharge

  • Thickening of skin on the breast

  • Changes in the size or shape of the breast

A diagnostic mammogram can help determine if these symptoms are indicative of the presence of cancer.

As compared to screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms provide a more detailed x-ray of the breast using specialized techniques. They are also used in special circumstances, such as for patients with breast implants. 

What’s involved in a diagnostic mammogram?

If your doctor prescribes a diagnostic mammogram, realize that it will take longer than a normal screening mammogram, because more x-rays are taken, providing views of the breast from multiple vantage points. The radiologist administering the test may also zoom in on a specific area of the breast where there is a suspicion of an abnormality. This will give your doctor a better image of the tissue to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

In addition to finding tumors that are too small to feel, mammograms may also spot ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). These are abnormal cells in the lining of a breast duct, which may become invasive cancer in some women.

Check out their website here for more information: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/diagnostic-mammogram

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