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Old 01-13-2012, 06:37 PM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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Need a Mammogram Re-Check. Keep Me From Freaking Out...

I got my first mammogram on the 4th, and got a simple letter in the mail that I need to come back for an appointment with a radiologist available for immediate evaluation. So I have that appointment on the18th, with a "just in case" ultrasound scheduled immediately after - which they made clear we may not need to do - but we might. Being my first, I understand they don't know what's "normal" and the RT who took my first pictures said it's not unusual to need to take more pictures to establish normal for me.

But, I'm still really nervous. When stuff is bothering me, I sleep, and I overslept by 4 hours today, so I know it's bothering me more than I'm trying to let it. I'm adopted, so even though there was no negative family history known at the time, a lot can change in 40 years! I have a cousin who's 10 years younger going through chemo right now, and my mom had a lumpectomy and radiation treatment 15 years ago. Who knows what has happened with my genetically-related people by now!

So tell me about all of your insignificant re-checks and that it's really nothing to get worked up about until... after the appointment.
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  #2  
Old 01-13-2012, 06:41 PM
Ca3799 Ca3799 is offline
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About 1/3 of mammograms involve a call back. The bulk of those are normal. Of the abnormals, most are benign cysts.
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  #3  
Old 01-13-2012, 06:48 PM
pohjonen pohjonen is offline
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I have twice gone back for an ultrasound. Cysts. Sometimes I think they should just do ultrasounds and forget the mammosquashes.
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  #4  
Old 01-13-2012, 07:16 PM
Eureka Eureka is offline
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I'm not old enough for a mammogram, but my mother averages a re-check every other time she has a mammogram.

Mostly, I think, for the same issue, so it isn't as stressful now as it was the first time, but she sure went off on the poor person who picked up the phone about scheduling issues.

In fairness to my mother, the phone system should not offer you a chance to hold after the office closes for the day.
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Old 01-13-2012, 09:47 PM
Salem Salem is online now
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Two friends and my mother-in-law, all within the last three months, were called back for rechecks and were fine. I truly think they have become much more aggressive with call backs, and that's not a bad thing, although that's easy to say when it's not you!

My mother-in-law's issue ended up being because of a bruise! One of her dogs had jumped up on her lap, landing paw-first on her boob. She didn't even think about it when she went a few days later for a routine mammo and then got the call back/come in right away. She felt stupid when she realized it! And, yes, we all told her there was nothing stupid about it at all.
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Old 01-13-2012, 09:59 PM
Cheez_Whia Cheez_Whia is offline
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I had to go back for a recheck a couple of years ago, and the tech there said that since they went to digital imaging, there was more stuff that got picked up, thus requiring a recheck and/or ultrasound. Once they had a digital baseline, they could compare any new films to it to look for changes. I'm fine, BTW.

It does suck having to go through the "OMG I might have cancer!" thing. I hope you go through all of this for "nothing".
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  #7  
Old 01-13-2012, 10:02 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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I needed a recheck on my first exam a few months back, though they warned me of that high possibility that day. They were having trouble imaging around the area of the armpit, looking for the lymph nodes there. I came back and they did one view per side, and the radiologist told me that it's just how my anatomy is set up, and to return for yearly scans plus be extra diligent with the exams due to the extra difficulty with that particular angle.
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  #8  
Old 01-13-2012, 10:05 PM
Lucretia Lucretia is offline
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Oh lordy, when I had my first one, I had to go back four times, because they couldn't get a good view of the tail of tissue that goes up under your armpit. I was pissed. I was also very, very glad when the new guidelines regarding mammograms came out. Given that I'm low risk, I shan't be doing that again until I'm 50.
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  #9  
Old 01-13-2012, 10:07 PM
MoodIndigo1 MoodIndigo1 is offline
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I got called back for a re-check, and I know what you mean about freaking out. Trying not to worry, imagining every possible scenario. Everything was fine.

Turns out it's pretty common. One of my friends told me "There are all kinds of weird things in breasts, that's why we call them boobs."
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  #10  
Old 01-13-2012, 10:15 PM
Scarlett67 Scarlett67 is offline
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I got called back in . . . 2009? . . . for a recheck on my second mammo ever. They saw some stuff that they wanted to check with a needle biopsy. Nobody likes to hear that word. I was scared shitless. Went in for the biopsy and they couldn't get a good enough image to take the sample. So they scheduled me for a surgical biopsy that same week. That was actually a huge relief, though, because (1) I didn't have to worry anymore about whether I needed surgery (sounds weird, I know, but it's true) and (2) it was day surgery, and the sample tissue area would be slightly larger (though still quite small), and even if it was problem tissue, it would all be removed during the surgery.

So I went for the surgery and it turned out to be just funny cells, nothing to worry about. I had a follow-up mammo 6 months later, and then 6 months later they said I could go back to my regular yearly mammos. I have a faint scar about an inch long, and I'd have to be a total whore for it ever to show in public.

So I will tell you what my online peeps told me back then. Do your best to relax. It is highly likely to be nothing at all, even if you end up needing a little treatment. But I also understand how very hard it is to relax! Just be good to yourself, and surround yourself with people who will do the same. Mr. S was awesome -- joking about how I needed to go "into the shop," despite the fact that he HAD to have been worried, having lost three immediate family members to cancer in the space of 5 years (just before I met him).

So just remember: BREATHE.
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  #11  
Old 01-13-2012, 10:39 PM
twickster twickster is offline
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Sorry you're going through this SeaDragonTattoo -- scary stuff, hang in there.

[mod]Since you're looking for medical advice and anecdotes, I'll move this from MPSIMS to IMHO.[/mod]
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  #12  
Old 01-14-2012, 02:41 AM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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Thanks for the replies, everyone. This gives me something to go back to over the next few days for reassurance. It's one of those where I know I shouldn't be worried, but I psych myself into it anyway. And there's no way I'm telling my mom I'm going back until it's over.
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  #13  
Old 01-14-2012, 06:37 AM
chiroptera chiroptera is offline
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Re-checks are quite common, especially with your first!

I was scared too because that happened to me twice. Some people have very "dense" (not a medical term) breast tissue which makes the images harder to read. The radiologist is covering his or her butt, in part - they need to be very sure they don't miss anything. So, this is a good thing, since you don't want them to miss anything either.
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  #14  
Old 01-14-2012, 07:44 AM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiroptera View Post
Re-checks are quite common, especially with your first!

I was scared too because that happened to me twice. Some people have very "dense" (not a medical term) breast tissue which makes the images harder to read. The radiologist is covering his or her butt, in part - they need to be very sure they don't miss anything. So, this is a good thing, since you don't want them to miss anything either.
Yeah, they told me I have the "dense" tissue issue, plus the doctors really do want the best scan to be the first one, so they can get a good "baseline" to compare to in the future.
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  #15  
Old 01-14-2012, 08:25 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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If your breasts are large and or dense, you are more likely to get called in for rechecks. Its just hard to get a good image. I have the good fortune to have both, plus a family history. I have been lucky enough NOT to get called back though.
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  #16  
Old 01-14-2012, 08:47 AM
kittenblue kittenblue is offline
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I got a call-back on the mammogram I had done shortly after my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer...just a few years after my mom! So I know from freaking out...though you couldn't have told from looking at me. I reopened the Denial Closet in my brain (also known as the Scarlett O'Hara Room) and shoved the whole damn thing in there. Sorry, medical people, but the words "probably benign" on the form are not really comforting! I deliberately did NOT go online to look up anything. I did not mention it to my daughter, who would have freaked. I held on to the comforting fact that I get my mammos regularly, and rechecks are common, and my firm belief that I am invincible. When the ultrasound and recheck came back fine, that's when I cried like the baby I am.

My mom was diagnosed when she was 80, and she's now 87. I always told my sister she was my "canary in the coalmine" for all health issues since she's five years older than me. And though she's had some annoying aftereffects from her chemo and radiation, she pretty much breezed through the experience and is now, I think, 2 years past diagnosis. So I've pretty much decided that worrying about it is futile. I just want to stay employed so that I've got insurance!
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  #17  
Old 01-14-2012, 10:25 AM
Hanna Hanna is offline
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I'm another who had to go in for an ultrasound and a biopsy after my first mammo. It was nothing; just some scar tissue from cysts. I was a little freaked too!
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  #18  
Old 01-14-2012, 01:01 PM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kittenblue View Post
I got a call-back on the mammogram I had done shortly after my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer...just a few years after my mom! So I know from freaking out...though you couldn't have told from looking at me. I reopened the Denial Closet in my brain (also known as the Scarlett O'Hara Room) and shoved the whole damn thing in there. Sorry, medical people, but the words "probably benign" on the form are not really comforting! I deliberately did NOT go online to look up anything. I did not mention it to my daughter, who would have freaked. I held on to the comforting fact that I get my mammos regularly, and rechecks are common, and my firm belief that I am invincible. When the ultrasound and recheck came back fine, that's when I cried like the baby I am.

My mom was diagnosed when she was 80, and she's now 87. I always told my sister she was my "canary in the coalmine" for all health issues since she's five years older than me. And though she's had some annoying aftereffects from her chemo and radiation, she pretty much breezed through the experience and is now, I think, 2 years past diagnosis. So I've pretty much decided that worrying about it is futile. I just want to stay employed so that I've got insurance!
And that's the case - breast cancer caught early is - a pain in the ass. But caught early and aggressively treated, it isn't a death sentence.

I get my annual physical and my annual mammogram at six month intervals - I want to up my chances of "caught early."
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  #19  
Old 01-18-2012, 07:25 PM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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Update

Thanks to all of you for offering encouragement and reassurance!

It's a lymph node. All the way at the top right "corner" of my right breast. No problems, but needed to do the ultrasound in addition to the extra views to be sure. The fun part: will have to do the extra-squishy, tippy-toe, contortion-inducing position from now on, to make sure the view includes the node in it's entirety for monitoring. Can't miss it, it's a bright spot on the x-ray, which is why they needed to look again, because a "normal" view just gets the edge of it and the radiologist just sees a suspicious bright spot leading off the edge of the image.

Good news, anyway! Thanks again!
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  #20  
Old 01-18-2012, 07:42 PM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeaDragonTattoo View Post
Thanks to all of you for offering encouragement and reassurance!

It's a lymph node. All the way at the top right "corner" of my right breast. No problems, but needed to do the ultrasound in addition to the extra views to be sure. The fun part: will have to do the extra-squishy, tippy-toe, contortion-inducing position from now on, to make sure the view includes the node in it's entirety for monitoring. Can't miss it, it's a bright spot on the x-ray, which is why they needed to look again, because a "normal" view just gets the edge of it and the radiologist just sees a suspicious bright spot leading off the edge of the image.

Good news, anyway! Thanks again!
I LOVE the extra contorting tippy toe view! Is there any other way to get a mammogram? I always imagine I'm a pinup model posing in a swimsuit - the positions are just as ridiculous.
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  #21  
Old 01-19-2012, 10:38 AM
Dogzilla Dogzilla is offline
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Originally Posted by Scarlett67 View Post
I got called back in . . . 2009? . . . for a recheck on my second mammo ever. They saw some stuff that they wanted to check with a needle biopsy. Nobody likes to hear that word. I was scared shitless. Went in for the biopsy and they couldn't get a good enough image to take the sample. So they scheduled me for a surgical biopsy that same week. That was actually a huge relief, though, because (1) I didn't have to worry anymore about whether I needed surgery (sounds weird, I know, but it's true) and (2) it was day surgery, and the sample tissue area would be slightly larger (though still quite small), and even if it was problem tissue, it would all be removed during the surgery.

So I went for the surgery and it turned out to be just funny cells, nothing to worry about. I had a follow-up mammo 6 months later, and then 6 months later they said I could go back to my regular yearly mammos. I have a faint scar about an inch long, and I'd have to be a total whore for it ever to show in public.

So I will tell you what my online peeps told me back then. Do your best to relax. It is highly likely to be nothing at all, even if you end up needing a little treatment. But I also understand how very hard it is to relax! Just be good to yourself, and surround yourself with people who will do the same. Mr. S was awesome -- joking about how I needed to go "into the shop," despite the fact that he HAD to have been worried, having lost three immediate family members to cancer in the space of 5 years (just before I met him).

So just remember: BREATHE.
I had to check the user name because I could have posted this exact same post, pretty much word for word except the part about Mr. S -- I had no awesome Mr. S. In fact, I really didn't have any support at all and that makes the worry and fear much worse.

I'd say, confide in your SO or someone who is close to you and let that be the one safe place where you express all your fears and worries. And when the conversation is over, let it go. I know it's hard, but try not to obsess about it. At this point, you don't have enough information to know what to obsess about, so you're really just making shit up in your own head. Try really hard not to do that. Remind yourself: I don't have any concrete information yet; I am just making shit up.
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  #22  
Old 01-19-2012, 11:24 AM
F.Pu-du-he-pa-as F.Pu-du-he-pa-as is offline
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The false positive rate for mammograms is quite high. I quote, from an article on Science-Based Medicine:

Quote:
In other words, 2500 women [below the age of 40] would need to be screened over a 10-year period for 1 to avoid death from breast cancer. What happens to the other 2499 women who had to undergo screening to achieve this benefit is also relevant. Estimates of harm vary considerably. In the United States, more than 1000 women would be expected to have at least one false positive result,7 a number that would be considerably lower in Europe.8 Less frequent but more worrisome is the problem of overdiagnosis. Somewhere between 5 and 15 women would be expected to be needlessly treated for a condition that was never going to bother them, with all the accompanying harms.9,10
These numbers (1000 false positives for 1 life saved) are for women under 40, but the odds are very good that if you get a call back on a mammogram, it is not panic time yet.
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  #23  
Old 01-19-2012, 12:28 PM
Dogzilla Dogzilla is offline
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Quote:
In other words, 2500 women [below the age of 40] would need to be screened over a 10-year period for 1 to avoid death from breast cancer. What happens to the other 2499 women who had to undergo screening to achieve this benefit is also relevant. Estimates of harm vary considerably. In the United States, more than 1000 women would be expected to have at least one false positive result,7 a number that would be considerably lower in Europe.8 Less frequent but more worrisome is the problem of overdiagnosis. Somewhere between 5 and 15 women would be expected to be needlessly treated for a condition that was never going to bother them, with all the accompanying harms.9,10
After what I went through, I'm beginning to suspect that my surgeon just wanted to make an extra boat payment. I have a very good idea that they could have just waited and watched and I wouldn't have had to have surgery and get my boob all mangled up. Because what they took out turned out to be benign. Now the mammogram place gets to make another boatload of money because I'm labeled (stigmatized, IMO) as "high risk" so that means I have to have the mammos twice a year, and my boobs are fibrous and dense, so that usually means a callback.

I am not unconvinced that all the excess exposure to radiation (Mammos twice a year from age 38-40, not to mention the 6 or so required for the needle biopsy and the other 12 or so required for the surgical biopsy... not to mention several x-rays I had last year for a broken foot and for dental x-rays once a year.) isn't actually going to cause cancer. I keep thinking of those pictures of people from Nagasaki and Hiroshima. When you expose people to a bunch of radiation, nasty shit happens.

And yeah, all kinds of docs have said to me "Oh, well, it's a very small dose of radiation." Yeah, but I've had at least 30 mammograms in four years. It's a small dose if you have it done once a year and get just two films. They always do 4-6 films on me twice a year, more when there's a callback.

I tell those docs, "Oh, well, the radiology people have a vested interest in convincing me it's safe, don't they? You do, too, don't you? You don't get to ping my insurance company for another $100 if I don't go back for follow up mammos so you can read them and tell me there's nothing there, right?" At that point my OB/Gyn shut her mouth, conceded that I had a point, and proceeded with the exam.

I've seen data supporting either viewpoint: that it's good to be proactive and get lots of mammos young so you can catch it early. And if you do catch BC, you want to catch it early. It's damn near completely curable at the earliest stages. On the other hand, that is exactly the fear tactic used to get you to buy into the solution, which is excessive exposure to radiation.
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