My First Scary Mammogram Experience

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It took me a lot of courage and going back and forth to decide wether I should post this because it is very personal to me but then I realize that there are so many women out there my age that might be going through something similar as I did and even though my blog is not really out there but if even one person reads it, it might help and give hope to them so I decided to share it rather than keeping it to myself so here we go…
little background about me. Ive been working in an oncology laboratory specifically handling breast cancer biopsies for the past 9 years. over 100 breast cancers come and go in my department and I’ve seen all kind of cases and ages. I have no history of breast cancer in my either side of the family nor an ovarian cancer.
about two months ago I started having massive pain in my left breast. Pain was similar to what you get right before your period but 10 times worst (soreness, burning and pulling sensation). Soon the pain started to radiate toward my left shoulder and under arm and at times was making my left arm numb. It was so bad that I couldn’t wear a bra and I switched to waring sport bras with no padding and wire. I consulted couple people around me and they all suggested to wait till I get my period and see if the pain is related to that so I waited. The pain decreased but it didn’t go away. I was still in pain after a month which started to make me feel concerned. Now working with breast biopsies all day 5 days a week makes you go crazy. this whole time I’m googling things about my symptoms and of course in the back of my mind I’m thinking : “breast cancer, I have breast cancer”. So with fear I made an appointment with my OBGYN to have it checked out. My doctor examined my breasts and found a little lump in the upper area of my left breast so she suggested to do a bilateral 2D screening digital mammography with 3D tomosynthesis, ultrasound if needed. She also informed me that I have extremly dense breasts and that is why I need the 3D mammogram. when I asked her if she thinks the lump feels cancerous, she said: she doesn’t think so however she wants me to do the mammogram to be sure.
Of course when I got home I was so confused and scared that I started crying. when I googled what digital mammography with 3D tomosynthesis was, it said that it is mostly used for people who have breast cancer to be able to see the lump more clearly in a 3D version. My appointment was in 7 days in which each day I felt more terrified than the day before. thankfully my mom flew here to be at the appointments with me.
4-17-17 The day of my mammogram I was super anxious hearing all these horror stories on how painful and uncomfortable mammogram is but honestly to me was nothing and I’m the type of person who has low tolerance for pain. Yes you feel squished in, sure you feel pressure, awkward positions but all ends after 5 seconds. So I finished my mammogram and they put me back in the waiting area. After 15 min, they call me back in for ultrasound. The technician starts doing an ultrasound on my left breast due to having pain and she doesn’t see any lumps on the upper area where my doctor felt before however she finds a mass on the bottom area 5 o’clock location so she starts capturing images from the area and measuring the mass. The area had a burning sensation when she was pressing on it. Then she calls the radiologist to come in and double check the work. Radiologist tells me that my mammogram was clear but she doesn’t know what the mass is . It has shadowing and the wavelengths are not cystic like. Therefor I need to do a FNA (fine needle aspiration) to see if there is fluid in it or it is solid, and if it is solid they will have to do a biopsy. oh ya and this is the beautiful mass I was talking about. A 7mm mass at 5 o’clock.

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so of course I get home and read my radiology report and start googling things to get a better idea of what I’m dealing with. I can tell you now that googling is not a good idea because half of the wording they use in the reports are truly not as scary as it seems like but to a none professional they seem scary. The radiologist categorized my mass in BIRAD 4 which means that the finding on the mammogram are suspicious and that there is approximately a 23% to 34% chance that this is breast cancer.
you can imagine how I was feeling reading all these words. all I could think of was chemo, radiation, loosing my hair, missing work. The world around me was blurry for weeks. My next appointment was in 6 days. 6 torturous days. I honestly think if I didn’t have all these supportive people around me I would go crazy. Somehow at one point I made my peace with having cancer. I would see my case sitting on the table at work and reading my own chart.

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4-26-17 The day of my FNA was here. My mom and I drove to the Desert Breast Center. We were 45 min early. as I was sitting in the waiting area, I was just praying and praying for God to give me strength to go through this and come out strong no matter what the results are. They called my name and I went in. They make you wear this hidious pink gown on top opening in front. now I’m sitting in the waiting area looking around and surrounded by all these women different ages and all I can think of is which of us has cancer? After waiting another 15 min in the second waiting area, I go in. The technician starts explaining to me what the procedure is and if the mass is solid they will do a biopsy on me which I have to be honest with you, it is not a fun procedure. I think I lost it inside when she told me to lay on the bed to start the procedure. I was so anxious. A giant needle was gonna go inside my breast and no one wants that. Doctor comes in and I swear an angel dropped from heaven. Its like God has answered my prayers. Super sweet, very confident, and she answered all my questions. I was almost hoping that the mass would not be there but unfortunately it was lol. Doctor tells me if fluid comes out, you are done and good to go, but if nothing comes out we need to make an incision and do a needle biopsy in which they take 5 small pieces of tissue from the mass to send for testing. and of course I know all about this because I work with breast biopsies all day long.
They sterilize my breast and used 1% buffered lidocaine for location anesthesia. I don’t even know if I got numb to be honest. Doctor used the ultrasound to find the mass and with the other hand she guided the needle into my breast. Honestly didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I see the needle approaching the mass and going in and suddenly my Doctor says “oh it looks like there is fluid coming out of it”. You can imagine my relief . I don’t think I will ever forget those words ever. She moved the needle to different directions couple times to make sure all the fluid is out and I was done. A small bandaid and I was on my way out. As soon as I saw my mom I started bawling out.  Thank God.
Now I have a whole new appreciation for what I do and know how much pain the patients go through mentally and physically to get a biopsy and get their results.
My advice to you in similar situation-
  1. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  2. Surround yourself with positive people who can support you.
  3. Believe your doctors when they say they don’t think its serious. They’ve seen a lot.
  4. Don’t google (I know its hard but try not to). and if you are anything like me who is interested in medicine do your research but don’t panic when you read the big words. I can tell you that my research made me one of the most knowledgable patients and my doctors were impressed with my quesions. 😉
  5. Don’t be scared of the wordings on your results.
  6. if your lump is painful, its most likely a cyst. 90% of cancer tumors don’t have pain.
  7. Try to stay calm. (I did Yuga to deal with my emotions as much as I could)
  8. when your mammogram comes out clear means there is nothing serious going on.
  9. If you have pain anywhere in your body that is unknown to you, go to doctor immediately.
  10. Having dense breasts is not a good thing medically. yes they lok purky and not saggy but they have a higher risk of breast cancer and are harder to read on mammogram images for any suspicious masses. Fatty breasts > Dense breasts
  11. Familiarize yourself with your breast. Massage them. Get to know them.
  12. know that 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no history of breast cancer in their family but on the upside there is a 95% chance of survival for breast cancer today.
I really hope this blog helps someone out there who is going through something similar like I did.  I do want to give a shout out to all the women out there fighting breast cancer and also the survivors for being so strong and brave. It is not a good feeling knowing that something is wrong with your most feminine part of your body.
and last but not least I want to thank my mom for being an angel there for me every minute of every day listening to my venting and crying and holding me when I was scared. I love you mom.
CHEERS to no more mammograms till I’m 40 YAY!!!
if you have any questions comment bellow and ill be glad to answer them.
love- Melina xoxo
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