Abnormal Mammogram

By Karen

It’s going to be one of those weeks. I’m preoccupied with cat-sitting a neighbor’s long-haired freak who roams the neighborhood and refuses to comprehend how a litterbox is used so I can keep him safely indoors on my watch.

And then this morning, I had a contentious conversation with my primary care physician’s assistant where she told me to find another doctor. I’ve been seeing this doctor since 2000.  My offense was that I questioned why a recent routine visit they initiated to get my cholesterol prescription refill was coded as “medical care” that my insurance wouldn’t cover, instead of as a “wellness visit” that would be covered. My out-of-pocket was slightly over $200. I’m sorry, but I consider a doctor’s summons when I’m not sick so he can bless my continued use of a medication he prescribed to keep me healthy a “wellness visit.” So shoot me.

While I was still trying to calm down, the hospital where I had a mammogram last week called. The right breast looks suspicious, so it needs to be smashed and x-rayed again — with a possible ultrasound chaser. God only knows what all this is going to cost.

I instinctively feel like I’m OK, but I’m still a little freaked out. This has never happened before.

But I’m not completely surprised. When I was getting the mammogram, the breast was up on a screen and I saw a white spot right in the middle that didn’t look like it should be there.

My follow-up is in 2 days.

OK, readers. Have you ever been through this?


21 Responses to Abnormal Mammogram

  1. adele says:

    And the tea baggers want to fight to keep “our greatest medical system in the world.” Piffle!

    Two years ago, I got the same call about the mammogram. I had to go in and have a diagnostic mammogram, where they take more pictures and if possible seem to squeeze harder, Then I had to go back in 6 months for another diagnostic. I had a couple of the same white spots, but they’s been declared calcifications, and I’m back to regular mammograms.

    Three of my friends have had similar experiences, so I think the odds are very much on your side. In any case, Alice and I will be sending good thoughts in your direction. Alice says she’s glad kitties don’t need mammograms, because she has six protuberances, which would need squeezing.

    Later today, I need to begin the prep for my colonoscopy. Talk about party time.

  2. catsworking says:

    Adele, thanks for the reassurance. I’ve known several women who got call-backs that turned out to be nothing. My mother had a breast reduction and her next mammogram was a mess. They put her through some truly barbaric procedure to get samples (I’m talking lying face down on a table with your boobs stuck through holes in it like you’re a big slab of meat — real medieval torture stuff) and they determined it was calcification, probably caused by the reduction surgery.

    If I hadn’t just been told by my doctor’s assistant in so many words to kiss her ass and take a hike over what started out as a basic BILLING question (I’m still debating whether I should try to contact the doctor and let him know. Maybe that’s the script he’s given her to follow. It included a part where she said, “Dr. X has plenty of patients. We don’t need complainers like you.”), I might not be so shaken up. I did call the office back and leave a message for the assistant (who has always been friendly until today) that I would NOT be leaving the practice until this mammogram business gets sorted out.

    Sorry to hear about the colonoscopy prep. Talk about torture! Good luck with that. May your colon be clean as a whistle!

  3. That must be so frustrating. If a doctor gets upset because you want your visit billed correctly to get it paid, then good riddance to him. Always be surrounded by doctors you trust and are working in your best interest.. Otherwise they might be there for you when you need them most. My gynocologist didn’t care enough about me to even call me himself when 3 lumps showed up on my mammogram. I ditched him quick.

    Call backs are common. Sometimes they don’t get a good “shot”. I now go to a breast care center where patients don’t leave until they get the pictures they need (digital) and give results in just 10 minutes or so. I leave knowing everything is okay and that means the world to me. I believe that all centers should be done this way. No one should have to go through the scarey trauma of that phone call and waiting for another phone call.

    I don’t know how long ago your mother had the biospy, but I had one 2 years ago that was done in a patient room with an ultrasound machine. They used very modern procedures and did their best to make it as comfortable as possible.

    Hope to hear you reporting of good news soon. Feel free to contact me if you need to talk to someone. God bless.

  4. Anne says:

    It ain’t funny McGee! However, keep your chin up – especially when undergoing the x-ray. I had mine done about 2 mos ago and shudder everytime I think of the possibility of a bad repoert. EVERYONE in my Mom’s family died of cancer- one way or another – so you know what my chances are. In order to prepare, you might slam your breast in the refrigerater door a few times, or lie down on the cold garage floor and have someone back over your breast with the car. Seems like that’s what it takes to go through with the proceedure. Best of luck to you!!!

  5. catsworking says:

    Welcome, prettygirllost! Thanks for weighing in with your insight.

    Now that a few hours have gone by, that conversation with the doctor’s assistant is floating to the top as more disturbing than the mammogram. I’m thinking I need to tell the doctor about it. I’ve been seeing him longer than she’s worked there and now I feel like none of them are on my side. Except the receptionist. She’s OK. This is a one-man practice, so I understand him being over-cautious because a lawsuit would ruin him. But I don’t see why I should foot the bill when I have insurance that’s supposed to pay for some of this stuff.

    I think this call-back must be because they saw something because they also had me schedule an ultrasound, which will be an hour later if I need it. They did say I’ll get the results immediately this time. Now I see how easy it is for someone with a serious illness to get sucked into the big black hole of our totally dysfunctional healthcare system, with no knowledge or control over the costs or the procedures. They just say, “Do this and this this,” and don’t want you to ask any questions.

  6. catsworking says:

    Anne, my condolences to you on losing so many relatives to cancer. When it comes to breast cancer, my family has been VERY lucky, so I hope that’s still the case.

    As luck would have it, I just bought a big and heavy new refrigerator, so the doors will come in real handy for my practice! 😉 I always say, if men had to go in once a year to throw their junk on a cold slab every which way and have it smashed flat under a piece of plate glass, there would be a more humane mammogram device on the market tomorrow.

  7. zappa says:

    Deep breaths and give it back to the Universe.I have a mammogram in a few months and I am completely freaked out already.Picking up the phone to make a doctor’s appontment freaks me out.I lost my brother last summer to cancer and another brother a few years ago to heart disease.Both were young and healthy their entire lives. Will I die young like them,or in agony from Alzheimer’s like my father? OK,….MUST stop thinking about this….good luck with your mamm…imagine Congressman Wiener’s lttle friend being smashed between two ice cold plates as he Tweets a picture to every man in Congress. You are going to be fine!


  8. zappa says:

    One other thing-why torture you again?? Why not just do the sonogram if it’s considered the ultimate diagnostic tool?


  9. catsworking says:

    ZM, good question. And I’m so sorry to hear about your brothers. I can see why you’d be worried. I’m sending you positive vibes.

    I’m beginning to worry about excessive exposure to radiation. A few weeks ago I had my teeth x-rayed. Last week during the mammogram, I got zapped at least 5 times. In addition to 2 shots of each breast, they now have a pose where you get them both smashed from above at the same time. And NOW I’ve got to get the right one x-rayed AGAIN. I’m definitely going to question what’s going on when I get there. What have I got to lose? If they’re like my doctor’s assistant, they’ll just say, “Hit the bricks and see if we care if you DIE. We don’t need to treat your kind if you don’t trust everything we do and keep your trap shut.”

    Now that it’s a matter of “diagnostics,” I feel sure all bets are off with my insurance and I’ll be paying for everything out of pocket. Not to mention having the “potential breast cancer” note in my record for the next time Anthem’s looking for excuses to jack up my rates. This is a lose-lose for me no matter how I slice it.

  10. adele says:

    ZM, I’m sorry to hear about your brothers as well. But I always think that the laws of genetics have to be in some peoples’ favor. I have a good friend, whose mother died of uterine cancer, both sisters and one maternal aunt died of breast cancer, several other female relatives had breast cancer and survivied,and it haunted her for years. She’s now 66, and though she’s had a couple of mammogram scares, very healthy, and we’ve decided that she must have inherited more of her father’s genes, since he was very active until he was 90 and lived to be 94. Alice and I have fingers and paws crossed for you.

    Karen, I’ve never had the simultaneous double squeeze — yuck. And ZM makes a good point — if this breast center has copies of your previous mammograms for comparison, and they’re going to do an ultra sound anyhow, why do another mammogram? It’s at least a question worth pursuing. I never even thought of the insurance implications, since almost everyone I know is on a group plan, either through the state or through a union.Just another reason to be thrilled by the medical care system in this country. .

  11. catsworking says:

    Yup, the tech told me the double-smash is a new view they’re doing. Why? I don’t see the point, since they get exactly the same pose of each breast individually. It really reeks of superfluity. My experiences this week have me thinking the whole healthcare system is rotten to the core and profit is the ONLY motive. If you happen to be helped, it’s just a fluke.

    I am definitely going to try to talk my way out of another mammogram, since they already have 3 shots of my right breast from just last week, plus 2 years of history. Unless they can give me a damn good reason for doing it again, I’m going to suggest we go straight to ultrasound, even though there’s no smashing involved and it probably isn’t as much fun for them — and I will be spared the expense of paying for redundant x-raying.

    I can see the bills for this little crisis rolling in for the next year from all corners.

  12. kittiequeen says:

    To Karen— I wish you nothing but the best and hope you are, and stay healthy. Something else does sort of nag at the back of one’s thoughts—–is all this running around for all this “wellness” testing REALLY needed? NOW–no offence to you nor anyone else out there. But we do live in a time when health insurance is so horrribly expensive, especaily for the kind of coverage you dont really get for the money you spend on it. Frankly— I largerly view all the breast cancer scare stuff(etc.) as a way for the hospitals, etc to get you in there so they can pay off all that fancy equipment they owe money on .Please– dont let them scare you so they can use you like that.

  13. I know this is totally off the subject, but did you see all the cute kitty pics on National Geographic site? http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats/little-kitties/

    I think they are so cute!

  14. zappa says:

    Late last year,I developed c-diff from taking Clindamaycin for a few days for a sinus infection.I had never taken it before,nor have I taken ANY antibiotic for at least 20 years.I’ll spare you the details,but that is one NASTY bug.I did almost 4 weeks of Flagyl,which wasn’t working and opted for a colonoscopy to see if there was any bowel damage.Long story short,Universal wouldn’t pay for it.When I appealed,citing my age(51) and family history of polyps,they still refused.Basically the response from them was this wasn’t a normally recommended procedure for this hideous,damaging,disfiguring bacterial infection-yet every doctor I spoke to said that it needed to be done.So,I get reamed up the you-know-what again,without the benefit of that delighful Propofol.


  15. zappa says:

    Thanks for all the positive vibes,you guys,,back at ya!!

  16. catsworking says:

    prettygirl, I hadn’t seen these pics. Thanks for the link. Cute kitties are always welcome here.

    Readers, prettygirllost writes a very interesting WordPress blog about her bout with breast cancer. If you’re interested, she’s at http://www.cancersurvivorviewpoint.wordpress.com.

  17. catsworking says:

    ZM, that’s a TERRIBLE story, but why am I not surprised? All insurance companies are the pits. The survival of their business model depends on them sitting on their thumbs while their customers die.

    Instead of paying for a colonoscopy to make sure you were OK, those fuckers would rather see claims on some catastrophic consequence of your illness on the chance it would kill you while they were still in the black with your premiums.

    Now that the words “breast biopsy” are in my medical record, I’m totally fucked when it comes to insurance, even if the situation turns out benign. Anthem’s got me right where they want me. A few years ago, Anthem went nuts when I had a freckle on my See-You-Next-Tuesday checked and it was nothing. I’m on the hook to meet a $2,250 deductible before they have to pay anything, and I bet all this bullshit will put me there, and then some.

    Throwing us all to the mercy of those morally indefensible insurance bastards is the one thing I will NEVER forgive Obama for.

  18. catsworking says:

    kittiequeen, I totally agree with you. What sent the nurse at my primary care doctor over the edge with me was when I said something like I was tired of making the doctor feel “warm and fuzzy” when he insisted on making me repeat blood work I’d just had 3 months earlier. Things were heading in the right direction, so enough’s enough already.

    The bone of contention with me and that practice is that I never have so-called “wellness” checkups. I only go when I have to. And (knock on wood), for the last few years, that has only been when they insist on seeing me before they refill a prescription, and when I get there, they find NOTHING WRONG. And then they code it as delivering “medical care.”

    I’m sure the real issue must be the reimbursement rate. This doctor practices alone and he’s got a building and a 2-person staff to pay for. It makes sense that he’d try to maximize income. But when I’m throwing nearly $300 out the window in premiums every month AND paying for everything out of pocket because it’s being coded to favor him, I have to speak up.

    The assistant tried to convince me I was asking him to do something illegal if he didn’t call everything “medical care.” But I say, if I walk in well, he finds nothing wrong and does nothing beyond taking my BP or sending off routine blood work just out of curiosity, and I walk out well, it was a WELLNESS visit. Enough games with the medical semantics.

    I was going to have him do a thorough skin check on me because I’ve never had one and I’m a prime candidate for skin cancer (fair, lots of childhood sunburns), but after I paid $200+ for the prescription-refill visit, I canceled the appointment thinking he’d put me on the hook for many hundreds more if he actually DID something.

    If I’m really sick or know there’s a problem, fine. I have no problem paying. But shooting good money out the wazoo “just in case” is ridiculous.

  19. Thanks Catsworking for referring my blog. 🙂

  20. MorganLF says:

    ZM off topic…Unless you sent a younger doppelganger to meet us in DC you look damn good girl, I took you for way younger.

    Cancer is a bitch and I am sorry for your losses. My mom died young of ovarian (18 years ago yesterday) her sister even younger of breast and my dad of lung cancer, although he was 82 and had quit smoking at age 59 after a heart bypass. The rest of his many brothers and sisters conked out with massive heart attacks (my preferred method of exiting). So my history is for shit. I have been getting bad reposts on my pelvic sonograms for the past year, fibroids and cysts that come and go and with my history …… At first I panic then I get the ok and breathe.

    Karen next time get a digital mamo. Results as your stand there and so much more detailed. I have a sister-in-law who always gets troubled mamo’s but so far it’s always been nothing.

    My doctor is urging me to take the BRAC test to see if I am carrying the gene. Fuck no! Of course I am, then what? Hack everything off and yank the works? So I test and test and test….thanks god I have insurance. The trick is managing it and your doctor. Wouldn’t it be nice to be stupid and not care?

  21. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I’m with you. Massive heart attack is the way to go when it’s time to check out. Be gone before anybody lays a finger on you and the denied claims from the insurance company start rolling in.

    I had been told I was fully menopausal (at age 45) for 4 years when I suddenly had a little period and they found a cyst on my right ovary. Gyno said it was normal for a premenopausal woman to get them before periods, so she put me back on the Pill for a month to see if that made it go away. It did.

    I’ve had a variety of tests done on sundry things over the years and they never find anything, and I think this will be the same, but it will probably put me in the 6-Month Mammo Club, “just in case.” I’m beginning to think it’s mostly a racket. My second mammogram this week was unnecessary. They had a perfectly clear picture of what they thought was suspicious, so why x-ray again? To make sure they could believe their eyes?

    And I’m kind of pissed by the laissez-fair attitude. I just got a letter from St. Francis YESTERDAY (June 16) that was CYA dated June 10, saying I need the follow-up mammo, which I had on June 15. And then it’s nearly another week (Juen 21) until the biopsy — and then undoubtedly more waiting for results. IF it turns out to be cancer, I am going to be bouncing off the walls with fury that they made me waste, maybe, 3 weeks finding out, simply because nobody gives a shit.

    And the Republicans think THIS is the “greatest medical care in the world?”

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