As you know October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. This awful disease has touched me three different times with people I love. First was my sister-in-law, a 9 year cancer survivor; second by my cousin in Australia and third, a very dear and precious friend. All went through chemo and radiation treatments with two of them opting for mastectomies. This is a diagnosis that is hard to hear from the doctor and hard to repeat to family and friends.
I have always scheduled my ‘lady’ exam in October as well as my mammograms. Last year, I got lazy scheduling my mammogram and finally got a date one week before Thanksgiving. If you live in this town, you’ll remember that date as the Caughlin Ranch firestorm. We had a wind-whipped wild fire caused by electrical lines hitting that devastated homes and families. So many people were evacuated that night and day, including many businesses. The place I get my mammograms done was evacuated resulting in re-scheduling my appointment into the following year in January. I waltzed in and had it done as I have had it done for so many years. I did not expect a phone call a few days later asking me to come back in again as the doctor had seen something. They needed some different angles to check it out. Thankfully, when I received that call and the resultant drop of my stomach, Mr. Fae was there and bolstered my spirits.
I went back two days later and had it re-checked and had a sonogram as well. The doctor came in and discussed it with me. I have a spot on one breast that looks like it could be a calcification.
It was explained to me that there is a type of breast cancer that starts with breast calcification. However, most are non-cancerous. They are so small that self-examinations will not uncover them. They usually happen after menopause.
From the Mayo Clinic:
“Breast calcifications can be seen on mammograms performed in most women and are especially prevalent after menopause. Although breast calcifications are usually noncancerous (benign), certain patterns of calcifications — such as tight clusters with irregular shapes — may indicate breast cancer.
On a mammogram, breast calcifications can appear as large white dots or dashes (macrocalcifications) or fine, white specks, similar to grains of salt (microcalcifications). Macrocalcifications are almost always noncancerous and require no further testing or follow-up. Microcalcifications are usually noncancerous, but certain patterns can be a sign of cancer. If calcifications are suspicious, further testing may be necessary, including additional mammograms with magnification views or a breast biopsy.”
With this information and assurances from the doctor, we rescheduled another mammogram six months from then. I was told that I would be on a two-year watch with mammograms done every six months.
This past June, I had the next mammogram. A different doctor read the films and I met with her. She said that the spot was so infinitesimal that she couldn’t see it. She had to use the previous doctor’s map of it to locate it. She really didn’t want me to worry, but don’t stop with the 6 month check ups. One week later, I received a call from my ‘lady’ doctor. She reviewed the films as well and suggested that I meet with a specialist to firmly put my mind as ease.
I did. Was this a case of ‘let’s see how many doctors we can pass her onto?’ I don’t think so. I don’t get that feeling from my lady doctor that I’ve been seeing for 10 years. She told me that she wanted me to have absolutely no doubt about the seriousness (or not) of the spot.
I met with the specialist who again told me that he couldn’t find the spot (and he looks at hundreds of films a week) without a map, a flashlight and both hands. It was just so small. He reassured me that he highly doubted that it is a cancerous calcification. In fact, he was surprised that I even came to see him over it.
I am still on the two-year watch with my next mammogram scheduled for next January.
Am I relieved that I have been reassured not worry by not one but two doctors? Yes, I am. Is there any anxiety over this two-year watch still? Yes, I do. My point is this: every day women are told that they have indeed breast cancer. I know how I felt when I was first told of the calcification and the link to some cancers. I can not imagine the horror that slams into their brains at the words “you have breast cancer”.
When a women is told to do a month self check and is shown how….how many actually do it? I didn’t. Do you?
I wanted to share my little story with you underscoring the importance of breast examinations. So far, my story has been with good news while there are so many out there that don’t have good news.
I want to let the world know that I admire those people in my life that didn’t get good news.
Terry, Kerry, and JoAnn….you are awesome.