Mamma mia! My mammogram chronicles continue.........
Went in last Friday for the follow-up on the questionable screening I had two weeks before (I See One Hundred In My Horizon). The first thing on the agenda was what they call a "spot compression," a more detailed look at the area of the breast where density had changed from a screening in 2008. Spot compression means just that - they need a much closer look at a particular spot deep within the breast tissue and they must compress the breast to do that. I've written about the squish experience before (Boob Job and Pink Ribbon Day) but, oh, boy, this was worse. No breathing or moving allowed, just grimace and bear it. That done, I was escorted to the ultrasound room.
The technician was nice and allowed me to ask as many questions as I wanted.
"What do you see?"
"How can you tell the difference between nothing and cancer?"
"What's that black spot?" "How do you know it's a fluid-filled cyst?"
"How do you handle it when you see someone's scan and it's obviously cancer?"
"Does mine look okay?"
To all of those questions I was given professional, truthful answers, which I so much appreciated. Her words convinced me in the wisdom of screening and the power of knowledge.
I have two very dear over-fifty friends, both of them highly intelligent and worldly: one has spent decades in therapy working on her mental stability, the other decades working in the heath care field as a nurse, yet. they are both woefully lax in caring for their physical well-being. Neither one has had a colonoscopy, a simple, albeit semi-uncomfortable procedure that is HIGHLY effective in catching colon-cancer early on. Colon cancer is HIGHLY fatal if allowed to progress unchecked. They both need to heed my persistent nagging and get screened NOW.
Asking questions, just as I did, is another way we can protect ourselves, as well.
The tech shared a story of a 40-something woman who came in and upon getting her ultrasound, it was painfully clear to the technician that cancer was looming in her breast tissue. Her job is not to tell the patient the news, all she can do is say, "Your doctor will be in touch."
Six months later the same woman returned and upon another examination it showed her cancer had spread considerably. When asked why she had not been in to see her doctor, the woman replied, "No one called me." The tech never saw the woman again, however, from the advanced stage of the cancer in the second screening, she did not feel optimistic about that young woman's outcome.
The lesson in these two examples, at least from my perspective, is to be proactive: don’t shy away from unpleasantness, take advantage of the medical opportunities we have that can keep us health AND ask questions and demand answers that satisfy you.
As for the tech’s answer to my last question, “How does mine look?”, she said “Good.” As wonderful and professional as she was, and I thank her for her care of me, I will follow up on my own and MAKE SURE that everything is good.
That’s my responsibility to myself and it’s one I take very seriously. I hope YOU will, too.
I've asked the ultrasound technician to be a guest contributor to this blog, providing the health care professional's perspective on cancer screening, so look for that post in the near future.