Facts you need to know about breast cancer and how I asserted my path thru them…

    If you are a woman or if you know a woman…..you may want to read this….

     First of all, as a woman, do you know the answer to this question – Do I have “dense” breast tissue?  You probably WOULDN’T necessarily know this unless you have a great OB/GYN who communicated this to you,  or if you had an ultrasound person comment to you about it, OR you read the last couple of sentences on your mammogram and think it matters.  Well….it matters….a lot!  If you have DENSE breast tissue, this means that there will probably be things that are in your dense breast tissue that do not show up on the mammogram (this is what the last sentence on your mammogram report will say) ….nodules, cysts, and yes – tumors that could be cancer may or may not show up on a mammogram if you have dense tissue.   If you have “dense breast tissue” you really should ask for an ultrasound every time you get a mammogram.  If you aren’t sure if your insurance pays for that, CHECK before you go!  Most of them will….in fact, there are several states in which it is a STATE LAW that if you have dense breast tissue, they MUST offer you an ultrasound and insurance MUST pay for it.  I have read story after story of women who’s mammogram came back “clean” the same month they discovered they had breast cancer.  Don’t get me wrong – mammograms are good and I’m not discouraging you from getting them. However, if you have dense breast tissue, you can’t really have peace of mind with them only.  

     Second…. You must do self examinations and take all lumps seriously and act QUICKLY.  This is what probably saved me from my cancer being in a much later stage.  I found my lump myself.  I then didn’t even want to waste time going in to see my OB/GYN because that would have been another week wasted.  I just called my OB, told them I found a lump, and needed an order for an emergency Mammogram with Ultrasound…..got it in one day, mammogram scheduled for exactly what day I wanted it the following week.  You also do NOT have to go to the imaging center that your OB/GYN wants to send you to….mine sent me to Deaconess first and that is where I had gone in the past, so I went.  However, after the MRI indicated I needed a second ultrasound and I got the first pathology report back that it was cancer, I changed my imaging place to somewhere that was more specialized in breast imaging (not just all imaging).

     Third…..I don’t know if you can tell yet or not, but this whole breast cancer, imaging, ultrasound, mammogram, MRI – thing is NOT an exact science.  I was given 3 different sizes of my tumor from the mammogram (1cm), the ultrasound (1.8 cm), the MRI (2.0cm) – and none of them were right.  The actual size was 2.2 cm when it was removed.  I also had some reports that said other things on the other breast were questionable, while other reports or other radiologist said, “no, that’s nothing”….AND since it is not an exact science, thus the removal of both of the boobs in question.  Problem solved!  So, do not just believe one source of report or information in the area of medicine…..it is tricky.

    Fourth…..ALWAYS get a second opinion on images, surgery, prognosis, etc.  Go see two Dr.’s in two days.  I had a surgery scheduled with a different surgeon for May 20th, knowing full well I was going to go see a different surgeon in a few days and might choose the latter and cancel that first scheduled surgery (which I did).  You have all the choices, and they work for you.  Who do you want to hire to save your life?  Who do you want to believe?  I saw two surgeons, went to two imaging centers with two different radiologist, and made all my own appointments in rapid succession.  When the surgeons said, “so we can operate on you in the next couple of weeks”….I said, “why would I want to wait for it to possibly spread?  I want it out tomorrow!”  and got the surgery scheduled within 3 work days after I met with the surgeon I chose.  

     AND finally…..Knowledge is power…do your own research, but take the emotions OUT.  You can bring on the anxiety and worry by what you read on the internet, OR you can learn the facts about Staging, Differentiation, Pathology, Reconstruction, Treatments, etc.  Then you will know MORE about what to expect and understand the lingo before you go.  If you can’t understand what you are reading, contact me or another health professional.  Your very best sites are those affiliated with National or International Breast Cancer Organizations.  They are facts and no hype.  One of the best resources I found was Your Guide to the Breast Cancer Pathology Report at breastcancer.org.   YOU are in control….not the dr.s, nurses, or insurance companies…..you are the one with a tumor in you that needs out asap, not the people on the other side of the desk telling you it won’t matter to wait a few weeks.  Be assertive and get what YOU need for your fast restoration!!!  And one more thing – YOU need to ask for a copy of every ultrasound, every mammogram, every MRI report, every pathology report.  They are your reports.  I actually caught the fact that I needed to go back for another ultrasound for the second spot on the right breast that ended up being ok….the dr. missed it until I asked for the report and read that the MRI report was recommending I go get more “suspicious” areas checked.  Health care professionals can make mistakes….they are human….but they also do not have as much at stake as you do, so do your own homework and be alert about what is on the reports!

…..hope this helps someone… or someone’s loved one someday or somewhere!!!  Living and learning as I go, but learning it for myself and not because someone else said so 😉

Blessings – 

heidi

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