When I got my first mammogram I was told I had dense breasts, which means the tissue is less fatty with more connective tissue. This shows up white on the screen, the same as calcifications that indicate cancer. Therefore it is of great importance to have your results read by an experienced radiologist so that each successive mammogram can be compared to check for changes in these white areas.
After my mammogram in 1999 the radiologist told me the left breast looked suspicious and repeated the procedure. It still wasn’t clear and she advised me to see a breast cancer specialist in order to rule out cancer. I did so, and after looking at the pictures and reading the report he told me I merely had dense and cystic breasts. He did not exam me nor did he order any further testing. The following year when my annual testing was due I somehow let it slide by, not really giving it much thought. I had no lumps or discomfort of any kind so it didn’t concern me, and I rarely performed a self -exam. In the late Fall of the following year I knew it was time to make an appointment when I noticed what looked like a small scab on my left nipple, and a good size lump in my breast.
Fast forward nine months later. A biopsy had shown I had stage 3B invasive ductal carcinoma of the left breast, with lymph node involvement, which is a fast growing and aggressive cancer. I had a radical mastectomy, eight grueling rounds of chemotherap, and 33 rounds of radiation. If I had been given an ultra -sound when I was sent to the specialist, could it have helped detect my cancer? It’s very possible but no one suggested it and I didn’t know it was available. The chemo made me ill, I lost every hair on my body, and had to give myself injections to build up my red blood count. The radiation made my bones ache constantly and the fatigue was almost unbearable. At the time of my diagnosis, my oncologist failed to inform me that my cancer was the type that most likely spreads to the other breast. If I had been given the option I would have had both breasts removed, but neither the oncologist nor surgeon offered me that choice .I am still angry about that, and now I want to tell others facing this horrid disease that they have a choice and it is something to consider. I am now an 11 year breast cancer survivor in remission, but I am ever vigilant and vulnerable to cancer’s return.
If you have been told by your radiologist that you have dense breast tissue and you are experiencing unusual symptoms/lumps, please contact your doctor for a referral to a cancer treatment center for an ultra- sound. You could very possibly save yourself from my wretched experience and more importantly, your own life.
Homepage of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center WVU Health Sciences Center cancer among women – UN reports
Susan G. Komen® Understanding Breast Cancer Breast Facts Statistics Breast Cancer Statistics
United Nations News Centre – Cancer rates on the rise, driven by sharp rise in breast cancer among women – UN reports