I Had No Lump, But I Had Breast Cancer (Part 2 of Three Part Series)
Christy’s journey is a reminder you don’t have to have a lump to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
SJRA: How were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
Christy: A few days after my 3D mammogram, which was routine, I received a letter in the mail from SJRA requesting that I come in for additional views. They noticed I had “scattered density” in my breasts. I won’t lie; I panicked and started putting 15 years of casseroles in the freezer. I thought it was a death sentence.
At SJRA, I had a 3D mammogram, a 2D mammogram view, an ultrasound, and a biopsy and I never had to leave their system or make an appointment with a surgeon.
SJRA: Is the waiting the hardest part?
Christy: The wait was truly agonizing. I waited about three days for the news. When it came, it was unwelcome: I had a malignancy. I was shocked. After all, I had no palpable lump in my breast. Dr. Catherine Piccoli (SJRA’s Harvard trained physician and Co-Director of their Women’s Centers) called me personally by phone. She immediately put my mind at ease by sharing that the tumor was very tiny, very treatable, and very slow growing. I felt some relief and slowed down my casserole production.
SJRA: When did you realize you would survive breast cancer?
Christy: As soon as I was diagnosed, SJRA’s customer service, compassion, and transitioning services were excellent – bar none! They provided reassurance and put my anxieties to rest. I was going to beat this thing and live a life of gratitude.
Although my cancer was small and detected early (Stage I), I opted for a double mastectomy because the type of tumor I had could lie dormant in other tissue. I didn’t want to risk a recurrence. I made that decision with my breast surgeon. The reconstruction started on the same day as the mastectomy.
About a month after surgery, I met with an oncologist and had the OncotypeDX breast cancer test. This genomic test looks at the activity of certain genes within the breast tumor and tissue to determine the likelihood of recurrence. To my relief, it was clean. Both my blood, which had been tested for tumor markers, and my sentinel node biopsy were also clean, meaning there were no signs of cancer.
The oncologist provided an optimistic outlook, saying it’s more likely that I’ll get hit by a beer truck than die of breast cancer. In addition, he said, based on statistics, the recent biopsy, my age, the size of the tumor, and other factors, having chemotherapy and radiation would increase my odds of survival by only one percent. So I chose to go on an estrogen prevention medication for the next five years. So far, so good!
My breast surgeon and radiologist believe that, without a 3D mammogram, my cancer would not have been detected as early as it was. And I may not have had the same prognosis by the time I was able to feel a lump.
It is critical to remember that screening will not prevent cancer. My experience proves, however, that surveillance improves the chance of detecting cancer early, thus greatly improving a woman’s chance of survival.
Never skip your annual screening. For your convenience, our nine Women’s Imaging Centers offer early morning, late evening, and weekend appointments. Early detection is truly your best protection. Check our site at https://www.sjra.com/locations for hours and locations near your home or office. Then simply click on the 24/7 Badge located at the top of our site to book your appointment instantly online!