Today was the day of my mammogram and breast ultrasound. I wish I could say that everything appeared to be 100% normal and I have nothing to fear. I really wish I could say that.
It was an emotionally exhausting, stressful, and terrifying day. I did not realize how stressed I have been about this health scare until I walked into the doctors’ office. They led me to a changing room, where I changed into a scratchy robe with the “Vanderbilt Breast Center” embroidered onto the chest, and had to sit and wait with a handful of other women in the waiting room. I texted a photo to my husband, and told him it was like being at a spa, except that this was the last place on earth where I possibly wanted to be. I was easily the youngest person in the waiting room by at least 15 years. They called my name, took me into the mammogram screening room, and took dozens of photos with my breasts squished into impossible positions. Thankfully, the tech taking my photos explained to me that due to my family history and recent breast changes, I would most likely be called back for additional photos. She said they wanted to be thorough, and since I brought in my baseline mammogram (done five years ago, before kids, etc.), there would most likely be a lot of changes in my breast tissue, and they needed lots of pictures to try and compare my first mammogram to the current one.
After a lot of pictures and a lot of holding back tears, they sent me back to the waiting area. Not surprisingly, they called me back to another mammogram room 30 minutes later and they took dozens of more photos. Finally, after all the pictures were completed, I sat back down into the waiting room to await my ultrasound test. The ultrasound test was fairly quick compared to the mammograms.
Thankfully, the tech did not see anything to cause alarm in the ultrasound. The dimpling area, which was my main cause of concern, was actually the least of their worries. The tech brought in the doctor, and as they were both peering at the screen, the tech stated that “there is just not a lot of mammary tissue there”. My kids literally sucked the tissue out of my boobs! This is definitely some strong material that I can use against them for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, the doctor could not give the 100% clear cut answer that I so desperately seeked. She explained that I have very dense tissue that contains some cysts, and so it was very difficult to see all of the tissue without taking a thousand pictures. She also mentioned that while they did not see any concern related to the dimpling and skin changes on my left breast, there were new findings on my mammogram that needed following up. Apparently I have numerous amounts of calcium deposits in both of my breasts, a finding that was not there five years ago apparently with my original mammogram. While calcium deposits are a common finding throughout the body, when they are found in breast tissue it can be a cause for concern, especially when it is a new change. While it may just simply be my new baseline, calcium deposits may be a sign of precancerous activity, so unfortunately I will require a follow up in six months to rule out any chance of cancer. If there are any changes in any of the calcium deposits they found today, I would then require a biopsy to rule out anything serious.
I left the office feeling angry and defeated. Here I am, having already taken the genetics screening test to rule out the BRCA gene, and I thought not having the gene meant I would never have to worry about breast cancer again. I naively thought that having a negative BRCA gene test meant that my chances of having breast cancer were slim – I was under the impression that I had as little a chance at developing breast cancer as every other woman. However, my OB/GYN and the breast specialist doctor feel very differently. I am so, so thankful for these women and that they are remaining cautious considering my strong family history; however, I really hate that I know too much about this awful disease, and no matter how much I want to forget about the disease that took my mom and my grandmother’s life, it will always remain a fear in the back of my mind as well.