Breast Cancer – Routine Mammograms Save Lives!

Welcome to our ongoing series dealing with Ms. Misty’s recent Breast Cancer journey. The diagnosis, treatment, tears, fears, and faith.

It’s estimated (in the U.S.) over 260,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, and 1 in 8 will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. Though very uncomfortable if not downright painful, routine mammograms save lives – It saved mine.

In August, I went to see my Nurse Practicioner (NP). I’d been having some breast pain that just would not go away. I wasn’t running a fever and the lymphnodes in those areas weren’t swollen, however, the area was very painful, and I was concerned.

My NP isn’t the most approachable or responsive individual, so when I explained the pain I was having, I was prepared when she brush off my concern. She felt it was probably just muscles and tendons as my breast were extremely large. When pressed, she reluctantly referred me for a mammogram as I was 49 years old and my last one had been 5 years ago.

American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
  • All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. 

For more information on what a mammogram is and how it’s performed, the American Cancer Socity has some great information and resources HERE.

The day of my mammogram, I didn’t anticipate any issues, because I was assuming (and hoping) my NP was right – my pain was more likely than not, musculature in nature.

If you’ve never had a mammogram before, it can be difficult to stand in such awkward positions (yes, positions, as in multiple) as your breasts are squeezed between two plates, and scanned. When the exam was over, I was ready to return to the dressing room so I could dress and leave.

That’s not what happened.

The tech asked me to stay and told me she’d be right back. She said something about wanting to make sure the images were clear. Odd. Wasn’t she LOOKING at the images as she scanned my breasts? I know I saw several of the images, from afar, when she was repositioning me to take the next image.

After what seemed like an eternity (and 10 games of Candy Crush), she returned. Not saying much, she immediately whisked me to another room, a much colder exam room, for an ultra sound.

Well, now this is odd, really odd.

Even though the ultrasound tech seemed to be paying a lot of attention to the right breast, I wasn’t particularly worried – at least not until the she left me on the exam table only to return with the radiologist.  The Radiologist. A Medical Doctor. You know, the person behind the veil who reviews your images, signs their name to them and sends the results to your doctor.  The person you NEVER see…until you do and you suddenly realize that this might not be such a good sign. Maybe it’s time to worry.

He was very nice.  Calm.  But conveyed urgency about the situation. They found something “suspicious” and I would need a “Needle Biospsy”, Oh, and NOT to wait – he wanted it done in no more than two weeks.

Before I left, he handed me a double-sided piece of paper providing contact information for an “Oncology Patient Navigator”. He said he didn’t want to worry me, but she would be a great person to talk to if I had questions about the needle biopsy and how it would be performed.

Smart man. He provided critical information, but veiled it as something a bit innocuous in nature.

In few weeks, that brochure would prove to be a lifeline.

Have you schedule your mammogram yet. Please don’t put it off.

While busy building our homestead, we never thought to budget for cancer. We are grateful for our dear friend, Karen, who has set up a GoFundMe campaign for us. While it was a difficult decision to allow this, we are humbled and grateful to those who have helped us during this very difficult time.

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