Is This Breast Cancer? Pre-diagnosis Part 2: Mammogram and Ultrasound
Here is part two of my pre-diagnosis series. In this post I will be telling you about my experience getting the diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. This was a long appointment since I had both things done on the same day. I went in to my appointment at 9 am. My hubby dropped me off at the hospital and stayed with the boys. My mom met me at the hospital. I went into the women’s imaging center and registered.
After registering they called me in and took me to a changing room. I removed my blouse and bra. The only things you can keep on is a whatever you are wearing from a the waist down. To wear they gave me this cute kimono style super soft shirt. They took me to a second waiting room to wait for the procedures. This waiting room is exclusively for women. Which is why I was so glad to have my mom with me. So she was able to be back there with me. At this point I was nervous but I didn’t know anything so it was easy to keep my nerves in check.
Once they called me back they told me the first thing thing I would be having done is the mammogram. Now my doctor had requested a diagnostic mammogram of my left breast. However the technologist said that because I had never had a mammogram before they would be doing it on both breasts. They would also do the diagnostic mammogram on the left breast. So basically I had images taken on both breasts and more images done just on the left breast. The technologist also said that depending on what they saw on the mammogram the doctor would decide if I needed the ultrasound.
I walked into the room where they were going to do the mammogram and the machine was huge and it’s so intimidating. I knew there was going to be squeezing involved but I had no idea it was going to be so uncomfortable. Here’s a little TMI: I have small breasts. You know how some people gain weight and their breasts grow? Well that’s never been my issue. My breasts have always been small. Maybe that’s why the mammogram was so uncomfortable.
How it’s done…
The machine has two plates where your breast goes between them. The technologist basically lifted my breast and placed it on the bottom plate. Then proceeds to lowering the top plate on top of my breast and she squishes and squishes and squishes. She then heads to where she needs to be and the machine squishes even more right until the images gets taken.
While all this was happening I had to stand in a really awkward position because there’s this clear shield coming up from the top plate. And because of how my breast had to be placed between the plates my face was smooshed up against this clear plate. I definitely didn’t like it but whatever it had to be done. As the images were getting taking I was told to hold my breath. No worries there, I was already holding my breath thanks to the pain I was feeling as my breasts were getting squeezed.
Once everything was done with the mammogram, I was taken back to the second waiting room and was told to wait there. That the images were going to be shown to the doctor and that I would either speak to her or get the ultrasound done. I had expected to be there all morning scone I knew my doctor wanted both the mammogram and ultrasound done.
A nurse called my name and told me that they were going to go ahead and do the ultrasound before having me speak to the doctor there.
I was then called for the ultrasound and was greeted by both the sonographer and the doctor. The room itself was dimly lit and cozy. If you’ve ever had a pregnancy ultrasound then you know what the room and machine looks like. The only thing that was different was the wand that’s used. It’s slightly smaller, that’s it.
The doctor said that they had opted to do the ultrasound because I have very dense breasts. Basically what this means is that in a person who has “normal” breasts on the image the breasts look clear. But on someone who has dense breasts the breasts come out white. So it’s hard to see any cancers or tumors because the they show up white too. The doctor compared it to looking for a snowball in a snow storm. Which is why she thought we could get a better image on the ultrasound.
So I laid down and the doctor had me place my left arm over my head and kind of tilt my body to the right side. She then had me show her where I felt the lump. She then feels it and takes this marker and marks where the lump is. The sonographer then placed the gel on and got the ultrasound started.
Cyst or tumor
I didn’t have visibility to the ultrasound screen, so I couldn’t see what they were looking at. But then the doctor tells the sonographer “Right there, pause that frame and record”. She moved the ultrasound wand to a few more spaces, paused and recorded on a few more spots. At this point I was starting to panic a little. The doctor told me that she was going to need me to do an MRI of my left breast. She said that they were going to have to mark both the diagnostic mammogram and the ultrasound “Inconclusive”. Because even though the lump is visible on both the mammogram and the ultrasound she doesn’t quite know what it is. This is because it doesn’t have the typical markers of breast cancer.
Normally a benign cyst has is the shape of a circle or an oval and has a distinct edge. With breast cancer the circle or oval likes to spyder out on the edge because it’s trying to attach to blood supplies. What she saw on both the mammogram and the ultrasound had parts where the edge was distinct and parts where it looked like it was starting to spyder out.
I was told by the doctor that the MRI is very good at imaging dense breasts and will clearly pick up cancerous tumors. Because of my insurance I need my GYN to order the breast MRI, so they sent her the results and asked her to place the order. I now have the appointment scheduled for the 17th of July.
My next post Part 3: Breast MRI will be posted right after.