60. It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, feel yourself up...Or how my fingers found what a mammogram didn't show
It’s October, and as we start to emerse ourselves fully in the “Pumpkin Spice Apocalypse”, we should also be aware that this is Breast Cancer awareness month. Chances are you are already seeing more pink ribbon items than you can handle, but let that be the sign that if you’ve been neglecting it, you should be feeling yourself up.
Please, do a self breast exam.
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
250,000 this year.
Last year, I was one of the 1 in 8.
I’ve been lucky enough to have decent to extremely good employer based healthcare for most of my adulthood. So I have been pretty good at having yearly check ups, and in my 30’s, regular mammograms. Like four out of ten women, I had dense breast tissue, something that tends to make regular mammography readings a bit more difficult. As a result, for better imaging, my routine mammograms were followed up by an ultrasound if the radiologist spotted anything suspicious, or needed a better view.
In December of 2017, I had my yearly mammogram. It came back clear, or so the test reports stated. Six months later, while hoisting my boobs into a corset top for a “self tape”, I felt something weird. It was like a marble caught in a balloon full of sand, but there was no mistaking it was definitely something that needed to be checked out. (For fuller details check out entries 7-9 ).
Two weeks later, I sat in the Revlon Breast Cancer Center at UCLA with my diagnoses: Estrogen Positive, HER2 Negative Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer. As my surgeon Dr. C pulled up my mammogram from the previous December and put it next to the imaging I had done right after my biopsy, it was shocking. They were virtually IDENTICAL.
“It’s a good thing you found it,” Dr C said, “ because if you look, here is your Mammogram from December and here is the one from the biopsy, you can see the little marker they put in. It doesn’t present as a mass, that would usually be flagged.”
As it turned out, because my “flavor“ of Breast Cancer, “Lobular,“ the cells line up in a row rather than cluster together, and that coupled with dense breast tissue meant it didn’t show as an obvious thing. But when I went in for the MRI ( pictured above) it was big, and obvious as hell.
Frankly, I was lucky I found it and was able to act relatively quickly. It was removed at the point where the cancer had affected only one of my sentinel lymph nodes. It had literally gotten to the “door” of my lymphatic system but hadn’t spread beyond. But because it had progressed that far, as a precaution, I would spend the next 8 months going through chemo and radiation.
But if I didn’t have that audition, and I didn’t grab my breast in that manner to find that lump, how long would it have been?
I didn’t do regular “self breast exam”, but I got lucky.
If you are reading this, do yourself the favor and give yourself one, it legit saves lives.
It saved mine.
For more information on Breast Care and places to be treated for little to know money go to BreastCancer.org