Saturday, June 4, 2016

So Where Have I Been?...GET.YOUR.MAMMOGRAM

I wanted to say hello to my readers and explain where I have been for these past months.

In October I had my yearly mammogram. The radiologist thought there was something odd in the picture so I proceeded to have the two different kinds of biopsies: ultra sound guided and stereotactic. While both didn't show cancer, and in fact the mammogram guided procedure showed benign calcifications, the results did show that I had a condition called hyperplasia.

Now hyperplasia, a precancerous condition, does not actually mean that you will develop cancer. In fact only 10% of those with this diagnosis go on to get cancer. But it was decided that I would have the area removed rather than simply watch it. I decided not to simply take that chance.

Well it was the best decision I ever made. It turns out that I did have stage 1a breast cancer. The pathologist actually found a 2cm tumor in the middle of the hyperplasia. It was so small, and what the doctor called incidental, that the biopsies actually didn't dedect it. Breast Cancer information

At that time I had to have a second surgery, a lymphnode biopsy. Usually when there is some indication of cancer, when the lump is removed, the surgeon actually takes out a lymphnode to see if the cancer has traveled out of the breast. But since there was no indication of cancer, the lymphnode biopsy had not been initially done. So the second surgery. Luckily the area was completely cancer free, which meant I only needed radiation therapy.

That therapy began two months after the original surgery and lasted 6 weeks. I did have some slight side effects, mostly being tired and something akin to a bad sunburn. But I listened to my doctors and applied the creams and rested when I needed rest. Luckily I never got that tired that I could not drive myself and take care of the normal everyday activities at home.

And yes, I did get a second opinion before I began radiation treatment to make certain I didn't need chemo.

And yes I was tested for the BRCA gene. I am completely negative for both types. YEAH!

It's been two months since my last treatment. The doctors told me that it would take several months for me to get back to myself and I am finally almost there. Hence, why I have the strength to basically start to blog once again.

Meanwhile, the oncologist has put me on estrogen blocking medication, to ward off any recurrence of the disease. You may have heard of tamoxifen. But now they have medication for post menopausal women as well. I had a very bad reaction to the first medication, so we are now trying another pill. I am on month two and so far so good. It does say that being tired is a side effect among others. But so far the tiredness has simply allowed me a good nights sleep. Something I haven't really had since I entered perimenopause. So this side-effect seems to have a positive outcome for me. Meanwhile, the reality is that all the side effects can be managed, or another medicine can be used if the side effects become too overwhelming. It's still worse to get a reoccurrence of cancer, so the balancing act. As the labels say, "your doctor has weighed and balanced the side effects against the disease being treated and they have decided to try the medication for you."

In the end my prognosis is very good. If you had to have breast cancer, then the only better situation would have been if I had caught the cancer at stage 0. So I consider myself beyond lucky. I also knew not to listen to the new guidelines, that at 55 you only have to have a mammogram every other year. If I had done that, waited until next year, only heaven knows how my life would have been endangered. Part of the reasoning for the new guidelines states that women are put through an unneeded amount of anxiety by having all these tests preformed. As if we are too infantile to handle the stress and the worry brought on by modern medicine.

Yes, the vast majority of mammograms and biopsies are negative. Yes, when you go through these procedures you have anxiety. But ignoring that you could have cancer and ignoring the fact that this test could save your life is foolish. If you have cancer it is not going to go away because you don't want to know that you are sick. If caught early breast cancer, like colon cancer, is the most survivable form of the disease.

So remember GET.YOUR.MAMMOGRAM.

Also, I have an issue with them only giving you a pap smear every three years. What nonsense. Last year my OBGYN didn't give me the test. This year I insisted and she did not fight me.

Just a little side note: funny how its women's health that seems to get shortshrift. They still tell men to get checked for prostate cancer every year. Noone ever worries about men's anxiety levels even though the majority of those tests are negative as well. HHmmm....

*****

Meanwhile, the boys were wonderful by the way. Very helpful, supportive and kind. And as usual when push came to shove, they rose to the occasion and have stayed there.