Getting Felt Up: Mammogram & Ultrasound Fun

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From Wendy Thomas' blog Lessons Learned from the Flock
PSA: If you are having a mammogram, make sure you don't wear deodorant, it looks like cancer on the x-ray and you have to wash it off and take another x-ray. Also, if you have any moles, make sure you point them out to your nurse so they can mark them because they look like cancer too.

My breast had been sore and I thought I had slept on it wrong when I discovered the lump. I was able to see a doctor a few days later. She said it was moveable and since it was sore it was likely just a fibrous cyst since cancer is usually harder (like a seed), immoveable and not painful. She scheduled me for mammogram and ultrasound testing the next day to get a better idea of what it is. She warned me it might take 2 hours.

Mammograms are not fun. There is no smiling while you're standing half naked having your boobs flattened. My nurse put a marker on the lump and after taking the first x-ray, she asks "are you wearing deodorant?" Strike one. Apparently it looks like cancer all over the x-ray and my nurse blamed my doctor for not telling me and made a bit of a fuss washing down the machine while I washed my deodorant off (during the next 3 hours I overheard the other nurses all ask their patients if they were wearing deodorant before they got undressed). Back in the boob crusher after the second x-ray, I hear "do you have moles?" in an accusatory tone. D'uh, these brown and black dots that you have to be blind to miss while I'm standing here topless? Strike 2. Apparently they also look like cancer on the x-ray. She marks my 3 moles and then I assume the position again and we start getting the x-rays we need, but she's not clear on when when I'm not supposed to move, so I accidentally moved and we wasted another x-ray. Strike 3. I really should have asked for a different nurse.

The head doctor of radiology reviews my x-rays, brings me into his office points out the mass. The left breast looks fine but the right breast with the lump also has calcifications. He wants to take another x-ray to get a better view of the mass and then have an ultrasound.

During the ultrasound the technician says she sees two other lumps near the one I found. I mention the doctor said he saw calcifications and she asks "did he say if they were the good pattern or the bad pattern" "um what?" The head doctor comes in and looks at the lump. I get dressed and wait to discuss the results with him. Dr. Google tells me macrocalcifications = totally normal. Microcalcifications = genetic mutations possibly cancerous.

Back in the real doctor's office he explains we'll need to do biopsies to find out what the mass is. I ask about the calcifications and he shows me the x-ray with the cluster of small white "microcalcifications" that are near the lump (not the good kind).

After 3 hours in the MRI building, I drove around aimlessly still not knowing what this lump is, getting lunch and waiting to come back later in the afternoon for an ultrasound core needle biopsy.

Luckily, my doctor for the ultrasound biopsy was great. I hate needles, and she helped me get through it. The first shots of local anesthetic felt like a burning stabbing. After the area was numb the procedure felt like pushing and pulling on my breast while the ultrasound located the lump and the needle retracted the samples. Because the mass was moveable it was little tricky for her to keep it in place to get the correct samples. She thought it was likely a fibroadenoma (non-cancerous, smooth, rubbery mass with a well-defined shape). She put in a titanium marker in the shape of the cancer ribbon and taped me up to stop the bleeding. One of the big risks is the needle hitting an artery, so I had to keep a close eye on the bleeding in case it didn't stop. Thankfully, my arteries were spared so no ER trips were needed.

Now we wait for the test results.

1 comment :

  1. Because of dense breast tissue, I get lots of mammograms which I fail and then have to go back in for more mammograms. So, I can safely say your nurse was an inexperienced twat. It doesn't usually go like that. They are usually extremely clear about the deodorant and tell you during the appointment reminder call. The nurses doing these exams tend to be sensitive, gentle, reassuring and *clear* with patients because they know that they are scared and uncomfortable and that its really hard to think coherently in that state of mind. I go to the Women's Center in San Mateo. It's in the Medical Arts building and they are generally excellent.