Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Women Need Mammograms

For those of you who are on facebook and are a friend of mine there, remember that status I put for myself at the end of July when I mentioned getting a mammogram?

Women don't want to get them because they hear all the stories about how it squishes the heck out of your chest (it isn't pleasant), or they don't want to bother with them because it will take too much time (for the record, from the moment I walked in the front door to the minute I walked out only 30 minutes had past...that isn't a lot of time).

Well, funny thing, mammograms...

They actually find cancer sometimes.

Which is what happened with me.

Kind of a bummer to go to your very first mammogram and find cancer. I went in because A. I'm over 40 now and I figured I should go, B. My maternal grandmother had breast cancer, so it made me paranoid since I'm in that over-40 age category, and C. I had a gland under my left arm that was bugging me, so since I was already paranoid, I figured I would go make sure that wasn't something to worry about.

It wasn't.

The Breast Care Center folks called me back after a few days and told me that they had found something on the right side that they needed me to come back in to have another mammogram and an ultrasound to check.

Being the genius I am, I did ask "Are you sure it isn't on the left side?" Like they wouldn't know how to read the charts....but my left side was the one that was bugging me, so I had to ask. Right?

I went back in for a 2nd mammogram and ultrasound. This time the radiologist checked the results immediately and I was then scheduled to come back in for a biopsy. They needed to check two areas--one that looked like calcium deposits, and one that was a dark mass.

The dark mass turned out to be just a benign lump of nothing.

The calcium deposit looking thing turned out to be a "Ductal Carcinoma in Situ" or DCIS. You can go here to read about what that means exactly if you want.

Basically it means that I have the very beginning stage of breast cancer in my right breast. So early that it would have been at least 3 years before I felt anything, so I am also textbook as to why women should get mammograms even when they don't think there is a problem.

Treatment for this is a lumpectomy and radiation. Being the worrier I am, however, I have opted instead to have that breast removed. So I will be going in for a mastectomy on Wed. Aug. 26th. Not a double, like I was also seriously considering. I will wait and if anything ever shows up on that other side I'll have that taken care of at that time.

I wanted them both taken when I was still in panic mode. But I know that right now my left side has no cancer, so I've dialed back the panic and will just go into it a bit slower.

Two good things come out of having a mastectomy....1. I won't need radiation with the whole breast gone, and 2. my insurance covers reconstruction when it is cancer caused, so I get to upgrade my chest size. :)

Silver linings and all that, right?

I've also pulled the "cancer card" a couple of times, and people are pretty darn sympathetic--which is nice when you are trying to get dentist appointments for a child before I go have surgery. They have no room for another appointment, but when I say "Oh, Thursday won't work because I'm going in on Wednesday for cancer surgery" they seem to be more than happy to work something out.

(I felt a bit bad about using the cancer card on that one, but I hadn't tried it yet at that point and was a bit amazed at the immediate sympathy I was able to garner on that one )

Besides getting to have a bigger bra size out of this whole fiasco, the other thing I am looking forward to is getting and wearing this t-shirt:

I keep thinking that because I have an "easy" type of breast cancer, that I don't really get to put myself in the category with all the other women in the world who haven't been as lucky and have to go through so much more than just a surgery or two. I don't need chemo, and since I'm opting for mastectomy I don't need I don't think of what I'm doing as "fighting" cancer. I have to remind myself that yes, I do have cancer..and yes, when I have it removed from my body I will have fought it and it will hopefully not return and I will be a cancer survivor.

So this shirt, while it made me laugh...also reminds me that what I have could kill me. And probably would have if I had waited on the mammogram until I felt something worrisome in that breast. Or at least it would have been a longer, harder fight.

Not to be melodramatic--I don't like to do drama--I really do hope that if you are a woman reading this who hasn't had a mammogram yet...or who hasn't had one for a long time, that you will make an appointment and just get it done. Or if you are a husband of a woman who is 40 or older, encourage your wife to go in and have a mammogram.

Peace of mind is worth a little squishing and some of your time.