Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Can you tell

I'm up early and have the computer all to myself? Just one more post for now.

So I got a bit of a scare the other day. On the 18th, I went to get a screening mammogram. It's been about 2 1/2 years since my last one, due to COVID, as I'd planned to get one last spring, and then when I made the appointment a couple of months ago it took a bit to get a late evening appointment.

I hadn't heard anything for a week, so I figured they'd just send me a letter saying everything was okay. Then I got a phone call a few days ago asking me to come in for another mammogram, which would be diagnostic, as the radiologist had seen something and wanted more data, and to be prepared to spend 1-3 hours there.

No one wants that call.

Now as you know, I live with a lot of anxiety, and I was really trying to not go into panic mode. I talked to a co-worker who's been through breast cancer and she suggested I call back for more information as to the indications for the new test. After playing phone tag, I got a call from a nurse saying there was no visible mass, but that there was an asymmetry in the left breast they wanted to investigate further. I just assumed that meant there was something different in the left breast vs. the right, and that's true, but it's a specific term in mammography, unrelated to say, differences in size for the breasts. From the summary of an abstract for an article relating a case-study of missed malignancy diagnosis in breast asymmetry:
Summary. The developing asymmetry has a 12–15% risk of malignancy but poses challenges of detection and interpretation due to the lack of typical features of cancer and the frequent absence of an ultrasound correlate. Failure to biopsy these lesions may lead to delayed diagnosis of breast cancer.
Also from the article itself:
Asymmetry and developing asymmetry are seen on 3.3% and 0.16% of screening mammograms respectively. An asymmetry is highly likely to be benign, with the likelihood of malignancy reported at 1.8%. However, 12.8% of the developing asymmetries identified on screening are malignant and therefore these findings require biopsy.
So, it's highly unlikely that it's malignant. They just want to verify that it's not of concern. The radiologist will read it while I'm there. If there is concern, they'll do a biopsy while I'm there, which is why I have to plan on being there so long.

Anyway, I'm glad my co-worker was there to talk to and she really helped. Hopefully it will be nothing. I'll write more when I know more.

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