Mammograms still can’t see everything

Thursday, May 5, I had my first post-surgery mammogram, and for the first time in my life, I was afraid of it. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’d been stressing for a week. My poor left boob had already been biopsied, injected, sliced in two different places, scanned a couple of times, and radiated. It seemed logical that subjecting that abused, scarred tissue to the none-too-gentle clench of a mammogram machine was just asking for pain.

Adding still more stress was the knowledge that even after the tumor had been confirmed with ultrasound and its location marked, it could not be seen on a mammogram because it was so close to the bone. But at least a mammo could see if any new cancer had developed in other areas.

Yes, it was pretty uncomfortable, but not a whole lot worse than what I’ve experienced before. The tech did do two extra exposures, trying to see as much as possible of the tumor bed. And she was able to get about half of it, the part farthest away from my ribs.

The radiologist was on site to read the films, and after 5 or 10 minutes she came out and told me everything looked clear. Everything that showed on the films, that is. Diagnostic mammography could not see my tumor, and subsequent mammos won’t be able to see where it was. But at least they can reassure me and the doctor that in those areas that can be seen, no new tumors are developing. I guess that means I’m partially relieved?

So was the whole episode stressful? I could barely drag myself inside when I got home and immediately crashed for a 2-hour nap. That night I slept for 10 hours. Yep, I’d say there was stress. And anxiety. But at least now I know what to expect next year.

Note: Per the online test report I received, “CAD was utilized for this examination. Tomosynthesis was performed.” Tomosynthesis is the newest advance in mammography. As explained on the Massacusetts General Hospital website:

Conventional digital mammography produces one image of overlapping tissue, making it difficult to detect cancers. Performed with digital mammography using the same scanner, breast tomosynthesis takes multiple images of the entire breast. It allows our specialized breast radiologists to see through layers of tissue and examine areas of concern from all angles. Benefits can include:

• Earlier detection of small breast cancers that may be hidden during digital mammography

• Greater accuracy in pinpointing size, shape and location of abnormalities

• Fewer unnecessary biopsies or additional tests

• Greater likelihood of detecting multiple breast tumors, which occur in 15% of breast cancer patients

• Clearer images of dense breast tissue


10 thoughts on “Mammograms still can’t see everything

  1. 1bl0gr3ad3r Saturday, May 07, 2016 / 8:30 am MDT

    So much to have learned & experienced in a year’s time. You haven’t detected any of the twinges so easily dismissed at first, right? Add to a clear mammo reading & it sounds about as good as possible! Hmm, be glad humans aren’t “equipped” like cats & dogs?? 😉

    • PiedType Saturday, May 07, 2016 / 8:47 am MDT

      LOL. Yikes, that’s a horrible thought.
      No, no pains like the first ones. Occasional tiny pin prick sensations, or a feeling of tightness or pulling where there’s scar tissue. All perfectly normal, they say. Probably wouldn’t even notice that if I weren’t so hypersensitive. Right now the slightest little thing that might be abnormal is like “Squirrel!”

  2. philosophermouseofthehedge Sunday, May 08, 2016 / 3:03 pm MDT

    Every day is another step leaving it all behind. YEA YOU! (Stressful for anyone, this doubly so – I’d have probably eaten my weight in sour cream potato chips and tortilla chips. No so good an idea.)

    • PiedType Sunday, May 08, 2016 / 7:24 pm MDT

      Yeah, I don’t really want to check the scales this week.

      • philosophermouseofthehedge Monday, May 09, 2016 / 9:43 am MDT

        Well, keep an eye on the windows. Quite remarkable images of tornadoes coming from parts of CO.
        What a weather year

        • PiedType Monday, May 09, 2016 / 10:04 am MDT

          Saturday there were tornadoes to the north and east of us, hail to the north, east, and south, and snow/rain/hail in the mountains. And all I got in my yard was a couple of drops of rain. Yesterday there were major storms east and northeast of here. Again I got no rain. Go figure.

        • philosophermouseofthehedge Monday, May 09, 2016 / 10:09 am MDT

          The images are beautiful – from a distance.
          It never fails. Rain never falls where needed. We’ll be needing to water shortly if the sun bakes and clouds fly over. Hope your new trees are doing well!

        • PiedType Monday, May 09, 2016 / 10:27 am MDT

          Seems odd you should need water so soon after all the flooding down there. But as always, the trick is getting it in the right place. My trees all look great, but I may have to hand water them pretty soon since the storms keep skipping my house. Sprinklers probably won’t be turned on for another couple of weeks.

  3. zenzalei Monday, May 16, 2016 / 3:25 pm MDT

    “…no new tumors are developing.” Fantastic news to me! But yeah, I imagine it was rather uncomfortable.

    • PiedType Monday, May 16, 2016 / 4:15 pm MDT

      I’d have been relieved by the news … except that I’m now conditioned to worry about what the scans and tests don’t see.

"You don’t have to say everything to say something." ~Beth Moore

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