mammogram and ultrasound: is it breast cancer?

Mammograms are always an interesting way to spend a half hour. You undress down to your waist in a room that feels like a meat freezer. The test itself requires your breast to be splatted on top of a frozen marble-like surface, kneaded by the technician into a position that spreads your flesh across as much of the surface as possible. You’re on your tiptoes, leaning forward with your head angled back as far as it will go before breaking off, and the tech now squeezes a flat panel with curved edges down over your splattered breast as close along your chest as possible, pulling the skin along as it lowers into position squeezing your boob until it’s nearly the thickness of a crepe. Hold your breath. The tech releases the squeezing panel up and away. Aah, breathe. Good, only five more views.

You go into the hall in your little tie-top and sit with other women who are anxiously awaiting news that their images show what’s required and they can get dressed and leave. Some shed tears knowing they’re not going to hear good news. Others are so uptight, they look like they might spring off the chair if you speak directly to them. I meet a nice woman with a walker who has had open heart surgery, and when they did the mammogram on her, the scar hurt so much she thought it was going to break open. It did not, however, though she woke up the next morning with several bruises. I have to get one more image redone, and then I go downstairs to the ultrasound lab to get my next test.

The technician here is very nice and preps my left breast with the clear goop that creates a contact for the wand that generates the picture on the screen. Nice. The goop is not freezing. She moves the wand around, and I can quickly see the suspicious area every time she rolls it over that spot. As the wand travels over my entire breast, I see other little round thingies, presumably cysts, so nicely rounded and clear to an untrained eye.

Then she rolls back to the spot. Marvin is there, and he can see exactly, as can I, the area that is making my day more difficult to enjoy. When the radiologist comes in and reviews the images, she confirms the suspicious mass as a suspicious mass. I understand sometimes they can determine from ultrasound alone that the suspicious thing is cancer. However, doctors get sued too often, so they need confirmations. The radiologist does not reveal what she thinks it is, but tells me I need to have a biopsy, which is basically a confirmation. I go out to the desk, and they schedule it a near week away. Tuesday, June 1, at the Orange Women’s Center. Good. Around the corner from my office. I’ll work until noon and then go. It will be a sort of normal day.


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