Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Titanium Chip - Does that make me a superhero?

Everyone knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I want to take this opportunity to share my own experience in the hopes that it will encourage other women to schedule their annual check-ups.  

Early detection saves lives!

A few months ago, I got that phone call; the one that everyone dreads, "we found something on your MRI, you need to come in for a biopsy".  What!?  I didn’t have time for this.  I was helping with planning my daughter's wedding, we had an exchange student coming to stay with us for a month.  We were much too busy to deal with this shit.  But – there you have it.

I have been extremely diligent with my breast exams, I get my annual Mammo/MRI, but I have to admit I’d always hoped they would never find anything.
The phone call came as quite a shock, so naturally I was consumed with finding more information   I had to force myself to get off of the computer, because I kept looking up breast cancer info.  I did read that 80% of all lumps are benign so that made me feel somewhat better, and yet I couldn’t shake that feeling…what about the other 20%.
My risk or breast cancer is extremely high, that’s why I always get an annual Mammo or MRI.  I am overweight, I have extremely large breasts and I have a significant family history of breast cancer.  It is important to know your risks. 
According to my doctors office, It was pretty serious, I have a 9mm mass in my right breast, but it could turn out to be nothing.  My biopsy was scheduled for the following Monday, so I didn’t have too long to wait.  I can't say I wasn't freaked out a little, but I tried to keep a good attitude.  

I had an ultra sound guided needle biopsy, which apparently means you get to be awake and enjoy the whole experience (yes, that is sarcasm - there is nothing enjoyable about a biopsy).   When I first got to the hospital I had to get blood drawn so they could check to make sure there were no issues with my blood’s ability to clot and stop bleeding and I passed (well that’s good to know).  After waiting for the lab results I was finally brought back to an exam room where a very nice technician did an ultrasound of my breast.  Lying on the exam table, I thought back to the last time I had an ultrasound, and that was more than 22 years ago when I was pregnant with Danielle.  That was definitely a much happier ultrasound.  

An ultrasound doesn’t hurt at all, even the gel was warmed, but it was still a very awkward and uncomfortable experience.  I could see the screen and there was the dark offending blob inside of my breast, which immediately causes stress; and as I looked at it I couldn’t help but wonder, is it cancerous?

The technician was wonderful, she fully explained the procedure, and then the radiologist came in. He also explained everything they were doing.  I was still pretty freaked out anyway.  Lying on my side I had a clear view of the ultrasound screen, so I could actually see the needle, which added greatly to the “completely freaked out” emotions I was feeling, so I chose to keep my eyes closed for much of the procedure. 

It really wasn’t too painful at all, and the one time I felt an uncomfortable pinch, the doctor immediately added more Novocain to the area, but there is a weird pressure as the doctor presses the ultrasound sensor and then pushes the needle.  Perhaps the worst part of the whole procedure is the sound of the biopsy equipment.  It sounds somewhat like a dental drill, but then ends in a loud popping sound.  The doctor took 7 separate biopsies (which I understand is fairly normal) and I jumped all seven times at the loud noise. 

After the biopsies, the doctor inserted a tiny titanium chip to ‘tag’ the area of the biopsy.  It makes sense to mark that spot for future reference, but I can’t help but feel like a dog with a chip inserted in me.  “If found please return to Peter.”  

Of course, if I were more like my husband I would see that titanium chip as part of my new superhero identity.  Titanium sounds like something a superhero would have. 

The whole procedure took about 30-40 minutes, but it felt much longer as I was trying to mentally be anywhere but in that exam room.

Once finished the sweet ultrasound tech put pressure on the spot where the needle had been and declared that I was hardly bleeding at all, and she seemed very pleased about that.  She put two steri-strips on the wound and covered the whole area with a special clear plastic bandage and then gave me aftercare instructions. Almost done, I still had to do a mammogram of the breast because the doctor wanted to check the placement of the titanium chip.  Squeezing my already poked and prodded breast seemed exceptionally mean, but thankfully the Mammo tech was very gentle.

Thankfully, some itching and bruising, and the annoyance of sleeping in a bra are the worst things I had to deal with while I waited for the results. 

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The Best Two words in the English language - NOT MALIGNANT!  I answered my phone with a mixture of cautious optimism and dread, and as soon as I heard the words “No malignancy found” I was almost euphoric, but like most things, it wasn’t that easy.  It seems that they did some find abnormalities during the biopsy and they would like me to follow up with a breast surgeon.  That ddid sound a bit ominous, but I was so relieved that the dreaded C-word is officially NOT in the picture.  According to the medical assistant from my doctor’s office, there is some hyperplasia & metaplasia, which indicates the beginning of some cellular changes.

After doing some research online, here is what I learned; Hyperplasia means there are more cells than normal within the duct, however the cells are normal cells not atypical (abnormal), metaplasia is usually associated with breast fibrocystic changes, so based on what my doctor’s office said, I have both more cells and they have some changes.  I have no idea what that means in practical terms, but I did manage to call the surgeon and miraculously got an appointment for the following Monday, so I only had a few more days to wait before I learned what the next steps will be. 

When I met with the breast surgeon, she was awesome. Based on the pathology results from the biopsy, it is really good news.  She said I did NOT need any surgery, but does want to closely monitor my lump to make sure there are no changes over time; I can handle an ultrasound and mammogram in six months. I was sure she was going to schedule surgery to remove the lump, so I felt like the clouds had parted, the rays of the sun were shining through and a halleluiah chorus was singing – okay that might be over stating it just a bit, but I was so relieved.

That’s it!  No surgery! What a great feeling.  And I get to keep my titanium chip as a parting gift.

If you are putting off your breast exam - DON'T!  Use all of those pink ribbons displayed this month as your reminder and schedule your check-up.  Finding something early can save your life!


  1. This is going to get shared. I know too many people who have had breast cancer. All but one survived. One of my friends was treated for stage 1 earlier this year, and now I know some of what she went through with her biopsy.

    1. Thanks Alana - the idea of a biopsy can be terrifying; I am happy to share my experience if it will persuade even one person to go get checked. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog

  2. Praise God that you had it checked and were spared from dealing with it, as many do!! We all need to be diligent in self exams and seeing the doctors. There is so much that can be done if caught early!! Thank you for sharing this with us at the #HomeMattersParty

    1. Thanks so much Jamie - it is so important to go get checked regularly. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog