I never really worried or thought much about cancer until my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 28 (10+ years ago). She died a year later. So … annual mammograms began in my mid 20s and mid-year ultrasounds were added a few years later. The topic of a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy came up on a couple of occasions, but I didn’t think I had enough reason to seriously consider it. So far, so good.
In March 2012 an ultrasound spotted some issues. Three separate masses were present – two on the left breast, one on the right. They developed in the six months since the last mammogram. Based on quantity and consistency, the oncologist thought they were cysts. Rather than doing a biopsy to draw fluid for testing, he recommended that I first undergo an MRI screening. At this time I started doing some casual research on prophylactic bilateral mastectomies. Waiting for test results was hell, but when they eventually arrived, they were good – no cancer. Whew! High five!
Fast forward to June 2012. I felt something unusual during one of my monthly self-exams. The lump I felt was in one of the three spots where the ultrasound found issues. Another ultrasound confirmed that two of the three spots had increased in size and were now palpable. Fine-needle aspiration biopsies were done and results sent for testing. I got names of a few plastic surgeons in my area and left with a plan to start the conversations, no matter the results. The biopsy results were negative for cancer, but there were abnormal cells detected. I already knew I have “extremely” dense breast tissue/fibrocystic disease (which can make diagnosis of cancerous tumors more difficult). I was told to continue my self-exams and keep regular screening appointments as I had in the past.