Nowadays I’m all too aware of the importance of self examination and going once per year to get my breasts smashed in the machine pictured to the right.
I’ve read several articles on Dense Breast Tissue since my clean bill of health always comes with the additional side note: “you have Dense Breast Tissue and are at a higher risk of Breast Cancer” This year, I asked my doctor to also add a ultrasound to my annual exams. My good doctor agreed.
NPR and other webpages have been a great resource about Dense Breast information and I’ll include these articles for reference.
There’s an audio recording that’s a must listen…
“Back in 2003, Nancy Cappello did what she had done annually for a decade — she went in for her yearly mammogram. And as usual, it came back normal.
But six weeks later, during a physical exam, her doctor felt something suspicious and ordered another mammogram and a diagnostic ultrasound. Again, the mammogram showed nothing. But the ultrasound spied a lump about the size of a quarter. It was cancerous and had spread to her lymph nodes.”
About 40 percent of women between 40 and 74 years old have dense breasts — meaning they have more breast tissue (that is, ducts and glands) and connective tissue and less fatty tissue than women whose breasts aren’t dense. You can’t know your status by how the breasts feel; it only shows up on a mammogram.”
“Many of those women may be wondering about extra screening after receiving notification letters saying that their mammogram was clean, but that their dense breasts put them at higher risk of cancer.”
“Ultrasound, digital breast tomosynthesis and MRI have all been suggested as additional screening options for women with dense breasts.”
“I looked at the calculator, and even though I’ve been told I have dense breasts I realize I have no idea if they’re heterogenous or extremely dense, which are the higher-risk categories. How do I find that out?”
Each of these articles give a clear understanding as to the risk factors of dense breasts and the confusion involved with it. A couple of years ago, when I got my 1st notice, I immediately looked it up on the internet. That’s typically never a good thing to do, but it’s what we do as humans, we search for information in hopes to get solid answers and it’s never black and white, there are arguments on whether additional screening is necessary or if it’s just a waste of time. I took the argument off the table, for now on, I’ll get the ultrasound, if anything out of peace of mind.
During my exam this year, my doctor indicated that I had “lumpy breasts” now there’s something every girl wants to hear. I’m 45, three kids and still work pretty hard to stay fit. Lumpy breasts usually isn’t at the top of things I want to hear. With that said, the exam lead into the ultrasound request. Better to err on the side of caution.
The Mammogram was painful and uncomfortable as usual, nothing changes, your breast is sandwiched in between two plastic sheets and smashed until you wince with pain. Then it’s released and done again at a different angle. The Ultrasound was completely painless, the tech took her time and was kind and chatty. After a thorough examination, she asked if I had any pain on the left breast, I said no. Afterwards, she said she’d have the radiologist look at the results with me there, just in case she wanted to take additional shots.
After 20 minutes or so, the radiologist came in and introduced herself to me, she informed me that I have cysts, that they are liquid filled and completely harmless. Apparently, there’s a sizable one on my left side, but they come and go with hormones. If it gets out of hand, I can have it drained. Great news, I passed another year but not without learning something new about my body. Lumps and cysts. Isn’t it wonderful to be a woman?
With staggering statistics, 1:8 women will get breast cancer. My goal is to educate myself and everyone I know to self examine, go to your annual exams, don’t skip a year and talk to your doctor if you have questions, they are the 1st ones who promote early detection.