Most of you know me through my work at Newschannel 7. But I'm also a woman in her mid-30's who had never had a mammogram. I put it off for the same reasons many women do. I've been too busy, I've heard it hurts, and I was even a little worried the doctor might find something.
But then I became involved with Buddy Check 7, a program that's fighting breast cancer through early detection, and hoped I could lead by example.
I made an appointment with Marshfield Clinic Mammography Specialist, Emmanuel Omoba, M.D., who assured me that the horror stories I'd heard about mammograms are not true.
Dr. Omoba said, "there is no pain, it really is a pressure, a firm pressure, which doesn't last a long time at all."
And Karen Ewert, a team leader in the Mammography Department, put me at ease with a reminder about the importance of early detection.
Karen Ewert said, "the biggest thing I have to say is, women say to me 'don't you find anything!' and I say, if I did find breast cancer on this mammography machine you'll live the rest of your life as a breast cancer survivor. If you're going to develop breast cancer, you want it to be found on this machine."
So we started, taking two digital X-ray images of each breast. During the brief compression, Karen told me to hold my breath for a few seconds, then the machine automatically released by breast. The procedure does put a firm but brief pressure on the breast momentarily, but it was not painful.
Karen Ewert, said, "I'd say 99% of new women who come in basically respond like you. (A mammogram) fits in with all the stuff we women go through... pap tests, the whole female physical."
This is where I hoped my story would end, but that wasn't the case.
The Mammogram Results:
The mammogram had detected something in my left breast that Dr. Omoba wanted to take a closer look at. That meant taking another set of images at a more uncomfortable angle, compressing the breast from left to right instead of top to bottom. While I was in mammography, Dr.Omoba was already studying the images in his reading room. He was in with the results minutes later.
Dr. Omoba said, "you can see (on the mammogram) there is a mass on the top part of the left breast interiorly. Because it's a small mass that would probably explain why you couldn't feel it. But it is a definite mass that we could detect on the screening mammogram."
That meant I would need an ultrasound to find out if what showed up on the mammogram was just harmless fluid, or a solid mass that would have to be tested for cancer.
Dr. Omoba said, "then depending what (the ultrasound) shows, then we proceed to the next step as the case may be. And the next step may very well be a biopsy."
Dr. Omoba assured me that 85% of the lesions detected on a mammogram are not cancerous. But it's the other 15 percent that had my heart racing. As I watched the images of my ultrasound live on the screen, I tried to prepare myself for anything. I wondered how I would break bad news to my husband, Chris, and my family, and how cancer would change our lives. And I thought about the grandmother I never knew who died of the disease before I was born. I reassured myself that if it was breast cancer, we caught it early so my chances of surviving were good. And I couldn't help thinking that what started as a story to encourage other women to have mammograms, may have saved my own life. When the technician finished, she sent the images to Dr. Omoba who quickly returned with the words I was hoping to hear.
Dr. Omoba said, "okay, this is not cancer, it will not become cancerous. The entire mass we have here is just a pouch of fluid. That's what it is, this is entirely benign. That relieves a lot of anxiety, yours and mine, as to what this might be." The first thing I did was call my husband to share the good news and the sense of relief that followed for both of us.
I'm glad this is where my story about mammography ends, but it is a good example of just how important it is in the fight against breast cancer. Mammography can detect a lump or lesion in the breast up to two years before it would be noticed in a clinical exam. And early detection is the best weapon we all have in the fight against breast cancer.
To schedule a mammogram talk to your doctor. For more information about breast health and cancer prevention, click on the Buddy Check 7 icon on wsaw.com's home page.