Mammograms Don’t Catch Everything (At First … But Maybe Eventually)

[Disclaimer: If you are a female over the age of 40 or know any females over the age of 40, regardless of what you might interpret from the above title, remember that mammograms are essential!]

After I finished nursing our now 4 year old, I had already passed my own 40 year mark and it was high time to get the mammogram train moving.  I went in for the screening mammogram and went home thinking the whole process was uncomfortable, less than dignified, but not torture and something I could handle again in the future.  That was fortunate because Kaiser called me back just a couple of days later for a diagnostic digital version so they could really zoom in on calcifications, little bits of calcium suspended in my right breast.  Upon closer examination, the radiologist declared me healthy and I went on my merry way.

Fast forward 6 months to Fall 2010.  Now 43, I am a bit lumpy on my right breast, which the physician’s assistant in Kaiser’s Breast Clinic has attributed to normal fibrocystic changes and (relatively) young dense breasts, common non-threatening symptoms for many women.  They don’t do another mammogram, as I’m not due until April, but send me to the ultrasound department for a check.  Everything’s A-OK.

Fast forward another 6 months to March 2011.  It’s time for a check-up in the Breast Clinic. The same physician’s assistant seems less sure about her diagnosis of fibrocystic changes and breast density, but still doesn’t seem alarmed.  We schedule a mammogram for April 19th, just a few days after I return  from a relaxing family spring break trip via RV in Death Valley.

On April 20th, I receive a call from Kaiser’s imaging scheduling department.  They want me to go back for another diagnostic scan.  I’m now a pro with this and go in, a little nervous but thinking they’ll just say the calcifications are happy, few, and round;  however, no luck there.  They tell me the calcifications have greatly increased in number, shape, and size since last year’s mammogram.  They want me to have a biopsy.

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