Is Your Mammogram Overdue? You Are Not Alone.

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Breast Cancer awareness monthAs I sat in the ultrasound room, there was an almost surreal feeling. My husband had come with me that day. I could not do this alone. Every second of the clock seemed to take a full minute.

“I should not be here…” I thought to myself.

What was taking the radiologist so long? My gynecologist has seen me earlier that day. He had sent me across the hall to mammography.

When the technician saw what it was that I was describing in my breast, she understood why I was so afraid. I tried not to be afraid, but my tears gave me away and all the prayers I said seemed to be for naught. 

Not only did I have a dent in my breast, but I was three years overdue for my annual mammogram.

My excuses? Work. Family responsibilities. And, honestly, the biggest excuse was fear. I struggle with anxiety on a good day, but medical appointments are my Achilles heel.

The mammographer called my doctor and they both agreed (for my peace of mind) that I should get my results the same day. And now here I was. I had a specialized mammogram and ultrasound. Two different sonographers and the radiologist were going over my scans. It was just me and God.

According to www.breastcancer.org:

  • One in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • At least 85% of breast cancers occur in women with no family history. The risk nearly doubles in women with a first degree relative that has had breast cancer. The risk also increases with age.

My last mammogram (three years prior) had been classified as a BI-RADS 3. There are levels which mammographers and radiologists assign to mammogram findings. Mine meant that there were most likely benign fibrocystic changes, but that I needed to come back in six months just to be sure.

I never went back.

And here I was now…anxious because I had not taken care of myself.

I checked all the boxes. I am female. Middle-aged. I have dense breast tissue. My precious mother is a breast cancer survivor. All of these thoughts kept going through my head. I just knew that I was going to get news I did not want to hear.

I went from being fine one Friday to clearly feeling a dent in my breast the next morning.

My thoughts kept going back to my mom and how grateful I was that she was okay. She is my hero.

How many women had come through this same center that actually had breast cancer?  If they could fight, so could I.

I could not turn back time, and just kept beating myself up for skipping my mammograms.

Breast cancer awareness month 3According to www.cancer.gov, early screening with mammography can reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40-74, especially for women over 50.

Mammography is not a perfect screening. This is why additional scans are sometimes ordered, including breast ultrasounds. More than 50% of women will have a false positive result (meaning that the radiologist believes that a possible cancer is present). These women undergo additional tests such as biopsies and many times the results are benign.

In other words, a lump or even something seen in a mammogram is not necessarily cancerous but should undergo further investigation.

When my older two children were very young, I had a breast lump that had changed in appearance in an ultrasound. My gynecologist was very concerned. The lump was biopsied and was benign, thank goodness.

And here I was almost 16 years later, and I felt at the mercy of what the radiologist was going to say.

The radiologist came in with both of the sonographers. They had pushed and poked me where the spot in my breast was. They had all pored over the scans. Now it was time to hear what the doctor had to say.

“Mrs. Presley, your mammogram and ultrasounds are unremarkable,” he stated.

“We cannot see anything except for fibrocystic changes. You do have dense breast tissue, though, and a family history of breast cancer. We would like to see you back in six months.”

Breast cancer 5I was floored. Not only was there nothing abnormal (albeit the dent in my breast), but the radiologist was able to pinpoint what that was, as well. I knew that a dent in the breast can be a sign of breast cancer.

My ONE hope was that it was something else called Mondor’s Cord. I had spoken to an ultrasound technologist a couple of weeks earlier who had this in her breast. It’s basically when a vein gets “stopped up” and makes a dent in the breast tissue. It takes a few weeks to resolve.

The radiologist knew about Mondor’s, but I was the first patient he had ever seen that had it. I felt as if a weight had been lifted.

And, yes, I made my six month follow-up appointment.

I do not feel qualified to write about breast cancer because I have never had breast cancer or had to go through grueling chemotherapy or radiation. Nor, have I had to have a lumpectomy or mastectomy. But I know and love women that have.

I cannot tell their stories that only they have earned the right to tell. And I am in awe of them. They are true heroes, the ones I know and the ones I do not know.

They do not have to wear pink because they wear their bravery every day. Each one of them are survivors.

But if I can write and encourage women to take care of themselves, then maybe I can help just a little.

Mammograms are not fun and they can be frightening. But they are important. You are important. Take care of yourself.

I would be remiss not to include our beautiful ladies in the fight against Metastatic Breast Cancer. These brave women are diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.

Breast Cancer 4While many women sport pink ribbons in support of the fight against breast cancer, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Ribbon is pink, green, and teal. The pink stands for breast cancer, the green stands for “hope,”, and the teal stands for “healing.” Only 2-5% of research money for breast cancer goes towards research in the area of metastatic breast cancer. Around 6-10% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will have metastatic breast cancer.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day is October 13.  Go to www.metavivor.org for information, research, and support for metastatic breast cancer diagnoses.

*Disclaimer: If you notice ANY change in your breasts, make an appointment with your doctor.

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