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Wanting better options
Thursday was a heavier day, and not just because of the heat. Every six months, now moving forward to every year, it’s scan time. Thursday morning I had a mammogram, and I was meant to also have an ultrasound.

Anyhow. We go to the hospital. They squish my breast till I’m standing at the machine (as the nurse move it ever so much tighter, and tighter, and tighter) making rude faces at the wall. But apart from the ridiculous compression of flesh, it goes smoothly.

It should be said that I’m not crazy for mammograms mainly because I’m only thirty (in about 2 weeks), and to receive this sort of scan every year, with all that radiation, really annoys me. I was hoping very much that ultrasounds would be an alternative to the mammogram.

Except after I get the mam done, the radiologist tells me he doesn’t want to do the ultrasound. He thoroughly believes that ultra sound screening produces too many false positives, and he’d have to do a biopsy, and I’d be left on ‘stand by’ (monitored) for six months at a time for years to come.

“But if you really want to do it, we can do it.”

Not. He didn’t really mean that. You should have seen his face when I said, “Well why don’t we just do it?” It was a ,”not a good idea” kinda face. And maybe he’s right?

I became an emotional puddle. (Darn tootin’ emotions! They make it impossible for me to express any words except for, “sorry,” which I shouldn’t even be in that situation.) Zsolt started asking questions about lymph nodes and such, and the doctor was answering his questions. So a mammogram, of course, is a reasonable way to screen . . . not perfect, but I suppose less false positives than an ultrasound. Fine.

But I don’t want to be shot with radiation for forty some years in an area that I already know is sensitive to cancer. I just don’t want to do it – even this incidence was a twist of the arm following my oncologists request to get “at least one mammogram.”

Anyhow. The radiologist said that MRIs would really be the best option, if I have an overall lifetime risk of breast cancer that is greater than 25%. (i.e. we can’t justify spending the money otherwise.) Frack. You know what the oncologist in England told me about my more immediate odds (as I made the decision to do chemotherapy), he said I had about 50% chance of not having reoccurrence if I had the treatment.  Of course, that number changes over time . . . but right now, I’m really pissed about the 25% lifetime crap when I had breast cancer in my body and lymph nodes only two damn years ago. And I know we all face this screening abyss, and I’m not entirely sure if I have a right to be so annoyed, but I am. So there.

Right. Bright side of things: I learned a lesson. My options as a young woman aren’t fabulous in terms of breast cancer screening. I need to become more proactive in choosing my screening, even I need to pay for it myself.

Oh Geez – even brighter side! I didn’t get my results, but the radiologist looked at my mammogram and didn’t order any additional tests, which I take as an awesome sign. Next day or two I’ll call the doctor for the official reading of the correspondence between specialists (results). It’s not really stressing me out, because if he’d seen a lump, I’m sure the ultrasound (to a specific area) would have been done. I suppose it was just such a frustrating feeling, being told I didn’t have the power to choose my screening, that really left me in such a lurch today.

That being said, there has to be a better way. Mammograms for decade upon decade? There just has to be a better way.

(And I’m not going back to ask again for an ultrasound. I do believe that the mammogram is enough, but that’s not the point. The point is, I don’t think it’s the healthiest option for a woman at my age in terms of long-term health. Maybe I’m wrong, but going forward I’d really love to explore other options, whatever those may be.)

Posted in Life After Cancer

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Member since
Feb 03, 2011

I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few days after my one year wedding anniversary. That was a shocker. After three years NED, cancer reappeared and pushed me to stage four. This blog captures life despite cancer. With international relocations, job search drama, fighting off apartment vermin, falling deeply in love and more. Life is challenging, but nevertheless inspiring and that’s what Bumpboobs is all about. You can find me over at @Bumpyboobs on Twitter, and hey - I wrote a lovely fiction novel! - over at http://www.CatherineBrunelle.com

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