I had my first mammogram callback two years ago. At that time, I was worried and researched all the possibilities. What could they find? What I found online was one website that questioned the rationale of mammograms, and suggested that they were not only unnecessary, but harmful. Indeed, compressing the breast flat into a pancake does not necessarily come without drawbacks, nor does using radiation year after year to catch something that is difficult to detect until it grows quickly enough to form a mass. But my callback revealed nothing unusual. In fact, I had gone to a different hospital and the radiologist could not replicate the initial worrisome result of the screening mammogram. Cool.
It was at that time that new mammography guidelines were released that would give me a two year reprieve. Given the dangers of mammography, I decided to go the two years.
Two years ago, when I first was called back, I did a lot of research and I really planned to blog about this topic to inform women about what I found, which is that the mammogram is not a test without risk and that the breast cancer machine was pumping out a lot of misinformation. I rolled my eyes at every pink ribbon I came across. I thought that something ought to be done, but after awhile, I stopped researching the issue, and frankly, forgot about it.
This year, I went for my biennial mammo, and I was faced with another callback, on the same breast, but this time the radiologist recommended biopsy to rule out DCIS. I knew full well what that meant–getting sucked into the controversy I read so much about two years ago– so here I am again. This time, whatever happens, I will continue to write about this subject. This is too important an issue, faced by too many women who feel they have no choice but to succumb to inconclusive diagnostic testing and fear-based procedures in geographic locales that are far from where the experts live. I am doing the research for myself anyway. I might as well share.
For those who have not entered the breast cancer maze, you might be thinking, why not just have a biopsy? After all, there’s a good chance I’ll come out of this unscathed. Well, the problem is not that simple. Biopsies spread cells, come with their own risks, and are painful to boot. How often do we have to go through unnecessary biopsies because the radiologist is simply following generic guidelines? Granted, there is a lot that is unknown and even the best doctors can only render an opinion, but patients need to be empowered and educated so that they can make good decisions.
This blog will not be about my personal experiences, though I will interject some of that on occasion. This blog will be more about my research journey. If you have read anything about breast cancer, you will learn that material on breast cancer comes with its own lingo, and its own culture, but I plan to write this blog without too many undefined acronyms or shorthand. Most importantly, I will try to direct you to the latest and most credible information on the topic.
There is a lot going on when it comes to DCIS treatment, DCIS research, and DCIS politics. I will try to make the information clear. I welcome all intelligent questions and comments as well as any information you would like to share. I am certainly not an expert. I have no medical credentials and am not dispensing medical advice. In fact, I want to emphasize that while I am a good researcher, I know very little about this. I am sure I will know a lot more down the road. I certainly know a lot more than I did last week. It is also possible that while I try to check everything out, I will end up examining less than credible information. I do find personal experience pieces helpful, but there is no way to verify the validity of some of the information. Mostly, I will try to hook you up with journal articles and good resources that you can take to your doctors.
Finally, if you are a woman facing mammography, biopsy, or breast cancer treatment, then I hope you will find this blog helpful. If you are facing diagnosis and treatment of DCIS, I send you my prayers. Good luck as you navigate the medical system. I hope this blog will help you gather useful information and I hope I will learn something by engaging in this process.