When you go for a mammogram, you hope for the best. You hope that you won’t receive that dreadful phone call from the doctor telling you they found something abnormal on your mammogram X-ray. Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I thought I’d share my story and show how important it is to have a mammogram each year.
My story (part 1)
I was 47 years old when my family doctor sent me for my first mammogram. I didn’t have a family doctor for quite some time, so I hadn’t got a mammogram yet. It took a couple of months, but I finally had my appointment.
The day of the mammogram, I went to the hospital with a false sense of security, like I was sure that everything would be fine when in reality it could turn out horribly wrong.
Although there are several of my family members who died from cancer, there is nobody who died of breast cancer, so I wasn’t really scared when I entered the exam room. I live in a small town, so I know pretty much everyone.
Also, my husband works at the hospital, so I already knew the technician who welcomed me. We chatted a while, and she explained to me how we were going to proceed. She also told me that she was using a 3D mammogram machine.
The 3D mammogram machine
The video below explains really well how a 3D mammogram machine works, how it can detect breast cancer earlier and how it can lower the risks of false positives.
Compared to a 2D machine, the 3D one is way more accurate because it takes pictures in very thin slices. The image is much more detailed; hence cancer cells are more visible. With the 2D machine, cancer cells and calcifications will surely be missed because they could be hidden in dense tissues.
My story (part 2)
Everything went fine, and I went back to my busy little life. I thought about it from time to time, wishing I wouldn’t get that horrendous news. The weeks passed and, unfortunately, during the third week; I answered the phone to hear my doctor’s voice, and I just knew. Something was wrong.
“Mrs Auger, the radiologist found a suspect stain on your mammogram X-ray and a biopsy must be performed to learn a little more”, my doctor said at the other end of the line.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I thought I would be. I listened to what the doctor had to say and wrote down the hospital information, thanked the doctor and hung up. After hanging up, I told my husband the news and burst into tears.
My husband tried to comfort me, but I could see that he was pretty shaken up himself. He was trying to hide his distress from me, but since I know him so well, I could see right through his facade.
The day of the biopsy, my husband and I went down to Quebec City, which is about three hours by car from where we live. The hospital where the biopsy was done is specialized in cancer detection so I knew that I would receive the best care possible. Furthermore, the staff was very nice as well as courteous, and they knew how to make you comfortable and as relax as possible, under the circumstances.
One thing that surprised me was that the biopsy is done under local anesthesia so you don’t feel anything at all. I had imagined having to endure atrocious pain during the procedure. The wound was completely healed after a week although the area remained sensitive for a week or two after that.
To learn more about breast biopsy in the United States, click here and in Canada, click here. Thankfully, the diagnostic was negative, and it seemed that the “stain” was a fibroadenoma, which is a benign breast tumor.
No surgical procedures are necessary, I only have to get a mammogram every six months for two years and after that, if everything is fine, I’ll go for my yearly mammogram from then onwards. I am very lucky that it wasn’t malignant, and I can’t help but think about all the women that had a different diagnostic than mine.
Please don’t take this lightly
Breast cancer shouldn’t be taken lightly. Over 225 000 women will be diagnosed and about 40 000 will die this year in the U.S. only and that’s why early detection is so important. Mammograms are the key to detecting malignant tumors in time, especially 3D mammograms.
For more information or if you need support, go to the American Cancer Society or the Canadian Cancer Society sites. Please don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you feel or think you feel a lump in your breast.