As a survivor of breast cancer, I find myself the subject of almost “routine” biopsies. My cancer was aggressive and a high grade so my radiologist is on top of every new little cyst or growth inside my breast. Each time I go to have routine screenings every few months, I always wind up enduring yet another biopsy.
The biopsies always come back benign. But, the emotional stress (mostly on my husband at this point – he literally cries at the fear of my having another biopsy – I have become sort of immune) and physical stress (Ouch! It hurts. My breast is all bruised and sore for days after the procedure), is a lot to deal with.
If you have never had a mammogram before. This video explains how it is done and lets you know what you can expect. As you will see, the mammogram is a painless procedure. No need to be stressed or scared of this procedure.
Every six months I schedule my follow up MRI, which undoubtedly leads to an ultrasound and mammogram. All of this imaging has also led to a just-to-be-sure biopsy thrown in as part of the process. My doctor always apologizes for the aggressive following of my recovery. When I ask her if I did not have my history, would I need to have all of these biopsies, she says no. But, who wants to say no to a biopsy and have it be the time that it would have revealed something. I don’t want to look back and say I should have just done the damn biopsy and dealt with this thing.
Here is a short video about how breast core biopsy is performed.
It has been over 3 years since my initial diagnosis. I have had no evidence of disease and feel better than ever. My lifestyle change is, I feel, responsible for my success. After the initial lumpectomy I underwent to remove the cancerous tumor, I refused the harsh radiation and chemotherapy treatments that were strongly recommended. It seemed like overkill for my early stage, contained cancer. It was a one size fits all approach. I chose instead to build up my body’s immune system by eliminating foods that are bad for my health and replacing them with whole foods, juicing and a new way of life. Check out the healthy recipes and tips on nutrition found here on my site.
If you have read any of my older posts, you have learned that I truly believe that altering my lifestyle improved my health and my outcome. I shed over 40 pounds and feel better than ever. I have confidence in my choices and I would not change the course I chose.
When one is diagnosed with cancer, it sets off an entirely new outlook on life. You suddenly feel your mortality. It is a terrifying ordeal to live through. I remember being so scared of everything. I eliminated all of the so-called “beauty” products I was using and replaced them with only natural moisturizers and body products. I had read that if you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t spread it on your skin. Since your skin is your largest organ, it absorbs everything you put on it. You wouldn’t want to eat sulfates and parabens (at least I don’t), why put it on your skin where it can do just as much damage. Instead, I use only organic, virgin coconut oil and olive oil on my body and face to moisturize.
I am also a huge reader of nutrition labels on any of the foods I buy. Much to the dismay of my teenage daughter, I will not purchase “foods” that have ingredients in them that I cannot pronounce or identify. I put the word foods in quotes because many of the processed foods found on supermarket shelves are truly not foods at all. They are so stripped of nutrition and filled with hydrogenated oils, chemicals and fillers, they cannot be classified as real food. These so-called foods are responsible for making us all so sick and fat. It makes me literally cringe when my daughter wants me to buy something for her that contains all of the crap. On a rare special occasion, I will say OK. She knows how to play up the birthday or other event so that I will cave. I suppose the up side is that now I have her reading labels as well. If there is a food that she wants, she will read out the ingredients to me and say, “it’s not that bad.”
Back to biopsies! The question I need to ask my doctor is at what point will I cease being a human pin cushion? At this point I have so many different clips in my left breast, it looks like a constellation. When the mammogram technician asked if I wanted to see all of the “bling” in my breast, we laughed and said I could walk the red carpet with all of that bling. (This is not my breast that is pictured here. I actually wish I would have thought to take a photo with my phone of my blingy breast. I would have posted it so you could see what I am talking about!) There are actually no more unique clips available so I’ve had to double up on certain ones. My doctor said for what we pay for them, I should have all diamonds in there. All fun aside, at what point can we slow down on all of the biopsies?
With my type of cancer, the risk of recurrence drops substantially after 2 years. After 5 years, the chances diminish even further to very low levels. Since I am at the 3 year mark, I am guessing that after the next 2 years when I reach the 5 year mark, we can take more of a, “let’s follow this” approach instead of sticking a needle in it as soon as it appears.
I have very dense, cystic breasts. Cysts come and go. This brings my risk up even higher and makes for a lot of activity in my breast. Along with my history of breast cancer, these are all red flags for my doctor.
Regardless of having to go through all of the monitoring, I am grateful that my doctors are so on top of my health. I am happy to be alive and healthy. I want to see my children grow up and prosper. I want to be around to play with my grandchildren. I am not yet done on this planet. I have many healthy years ahead to look forward to. So, I will keep up with my screenings, keep having those recommended biopsies and keep up with my not-so-new-anymore lifestyle. After all, dealing with any of this is better than the alternative.