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Breast Health: Knowledge is Power

In my last post I talked about the spots on my films from my first-ever mammogram. They seriously look like specks of dust on the “contact print” image of the first set of shots. Smaller than grains of sand, even. They look like… like… nothing.

I hadn’t missed them during a manual breast exam because they were far too small to be palpated. There’s not a lump to feel. Before advanced body imaging technologies, we would never have known they were there at all.

A stereotactic biopsy was recommended. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. Are biopsies always safe? This was not a poke with a needle they were talking about. What were the options?

I called a pathologist in the family to see what he thought. He sees these kinds of things come through the lab all the time.

“They look like a constellation of stars,” I tried to explain. “Like pinpricks, only they’re clustered. Not clustered like grapes, but clustered like stars.”

I knew I could count on him to give it to me straight. He went right to the point.

About 80% of things that present like this are found to be calcifications. (This is what I’m counting on!)

Of the rest, most are ductal carcinoma in situ, or cancer in a mammary duct. As cancers go, this one is 100% curable when caught early, which this most undoubtably would be.

A very small percentage of the cases that present like this at my age turn out to be invasive ductal carcinoma. This would be, shall we say, um, not so good, as cancers go.

We won’t know without a biopsy, he noted. He also recommended a second opion before getting a biopsy (the first came from the radiologist who read the mammogram films). Wise words which I took to heart and went to see a breast surgeon.

She looked at my films, noted the jagged edges on the magnified shots, and concurred that I absolutely must have a biopsy. She told me about a recent study done in the Netherlands that showed that 18% of cases like mine turned into cancer within 5 years. That means that 82% are not cancerous, of course! Ten years ago they would have told me to watch and wait, but now they biopsy earlier.

So much for the haze of denial I’d been living in for a few weeks, thinking she would say they were likely calcifications and we could wait and watch. Punctured like a helium balloon in a rose bush.

Now that I know it’s there, I feel I need to know for sure what it is before I can work on healing it.

I go in for the biopsy on Thursday.

Posted in: Living naturally, Misc.

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