My "Alien" Mammogram - And the Great News it Provided for Me
Last week I went in to have my first mammogram since my breast cancer diagnosis a year and a half ago. I am not new to mammograms. I had my first mammogram at 27 years old, and have had one every year since (with the exception of the years that I was pregnant or nursing my children.) My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 39 years old, and that is the reason mammography screening began at such a young age for me.
I was diagnosed at 47 years old with breast cancer myself. A mammogram detected the cancer when it was the size of two grains of rice sitting beside each other. It was still at stage 0, it had not spread, and it wasn't even large enough to be detected by the sonogram or MRI that followed. Because of my family history, I chose to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Not a day goes by that I am not 100% sure that this surgery was the right choice for me. (Please read my article entitled, "How to Save a Life - GET A MAMMOGRAM." The link is provided directly below this article.)
After my double mastectomy, my breast surgeon decided to have me follow-up by having a mammogram, sonogram and an MRI every year. I have follow-up visits with her every six months as well. Mammograms can be helpful in detecting a re-occurance of cancer in woman who have had a double mastectomy, which is why my doctor scheduled me for one.
My biggest fear going into the appointment was that the compression from the machine would pop one of my silicone implants. Kind of silly, I know, but I could not get past that fear. The technician was experienced in dealing with patients like me, and did a great job. After she took four mammography pictures, she showed them to me. Now, I have seen my mammogram films many times, and am familiar with the intricate pattern that breast tissue makes in these pictures. It is similar to a cotton ball that has been pulled apart to expose each individual fiber. The first thing I did when the technician showed me my current mammogram films, is laugh. They looked nothing like my past mammograms. In place of the "cotton fibers" were two, round, glow-in-the-dark, "alien boobs!" How could I not laugh at that?
The technician explained to me that my surgeon had done such a good job of getting rid of all of my breast tissue, that the mammogram could not even detect any at all. She also showed me my skin, fat tissue and muscles. Of course the "alien boobs" were my implants. I had always wondered how much skin I had left, and the question of, was my surgeon able to remove all of my breast tissue, was always in the back of my mind. This mammogram gave me such peace of mind, and a real understanding of my new, "out of this world" anatomy.
The other comforting thing that I learned, is that if there are any remaining breast tissue cells, they would be on the outside of my implants, making it much easier to detect a re-occurance if there was one. All-in-all this turned out to be a great mammogram. The news was much different than in the past, and just a bit more comical!