Thursday, March 5, 2015

My diagnosis

My name is Sandra. I am 58 years old.
For many years I have had "abnormal" mammograms. The first time I experienced this was in 2009. The radiologist told me he saw clusters of calcium deposits in my left breast. He advised me to have a stereotactic biopsy which I did right after the mammogram. The report was atypical hyperplasia and I was advised by a surgeon to have further surgery to check for DCIS. For those of you who don't know, DCIS is ductal carcinoma in situ, which means the malignancy is completely contained in a milk duct of the breast. This is also known as Stage 0 breast cancer. It is well known that this type of cancer rarely metastasises. Many women choose to have it removed without any follow-up treatment like radiation or chemotherapy. I asked the surgeon what he would recommend if he found DCIS. He said radiation was what he would advise. I told him I wouldn't have radiation for DCIS because if I ever got "real" breast cancer I wouldn't be able to have radiation on that breast again. (Again, in case you don't know, you can only have radiation once on any area of your body.)
I refused to have the surgery but agreed to have a follow-up mammogram on that breast in 6 months. In the years since that first biopsy I have twice been advised to have biopsies for clusters of calcium deposits but have refused. For the last 2 years I have had screening mammograms once a year and diagnostic mammograms of my left breast in between.
On February of this year, 2015, I went in for my 6 month diagnostic mammogram of the left breast. The radiologist said he saw a shadow on the films that he felt needed further clarification. He ordered an ultrasound to be done immediately. 
The ultrasound showed 3 rather large cysts and an irregularly shaped mass. I was watching the ultrasound screen and knew this was something that should not be there.
The radiologist wanted to do the biopsy right away but I chose to wait two days. I had plans I did not want to cancel and I needed the 2 days to digest what was happening to me.
I had the biopsy 2 days later and received the results by phone the following day. The PA who called me said I had an Adenocarcinoma of the Breast. She said she had never seen that particular diagnosis so she couldn't really tell me much about my cancer.
I picked up my biopsy report three days later and had a scary conversation with the PA. She told me again she really didn't know much about it. She had no idea what the various stains that were done meant. When I asked if it could be a metastasis from cancer somewhere else she said yes it could be. She told me I should consider getting genetic testing for the "breast cancer genes". When I asked why  I should do that before following through with this particular problem she said, "If you do have a
genetic predisposition to breast cancer you might want to consider having a double mastectomy."
Wow! I wasn't expecting that.

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