Next Stop: Breast Biopsyville

By Karen

This morning, I showed up early at St. Francis Hospital for my second mammogram in a week, and they were still talking as if the ultrasound was optional.

(I’m naming some names now to provide customer service feedback in case they ever Google themselves.)

After my last post and testimonials from a few women who have had iffy mammograms, I felt pretty sure a biopsy was in the cards.

When I questioned the necessity of the re-mammo, I was shown last week’s x-ray compared to last year’s. As it turns out, the white spot I noticed on the screen last week was at least a year old (but had earned the “all’s well” letter previously).

It looked to me like the lower left corner of the spot had shifted a bit. You know, the way a suspicious mole might — if it’s cancerous.

So, I let them mash and zap my right breast twice more, a little harder this time, and I was told to sit and wait for the results.

But instead of getting results, I was taken to the ultrasound room with no explanation. I could only assume the mammogram hadn’t been good.

Ultrasound is painless, but when the tech was finished, she laid a dry washcloth on my breast while I was still lying on the table and told me to wait like that for the doctor, in case he wanted to “watch her” scan some more.

So that’s how I received the next news: Flat on my back in front of a strange man with a face rag partially covering my naked, slimy boob.

He had an accent like Eric Ripert. He couldn’t say for certain what the spot was — “80%” sure it’s nothing — but it needs a biopsy to be certain. A “stereotactic” biopsy, he specified.

When they start throwing words like “stereotactic” around in conversation, you really feel as if they’re stuffing you like a dumb piece of meat down the rabbit hole.

The ultrasound tech was a nice young woman and acknowledged the scariness of it all when we were alone again. She gave me contact information for the Virginia Breast Center and said she’d notify my gynecologist. First good news I’d heard all morning — my primary care doctor and his minion who kicks patients to the curb seem to be out of the loop so I can deal with that situation later.

My biopsy is June 21. I think it’s going to be plain vanilla, on the advice of the Breast Center person I spoke to, a 10-year cancer survivor who has done and seen it all. She told me a stereotactic procedure would be much worse and possibly require stitches.

Here’s hoping I land in the 80% category and it really is nothing.


13 Responses to Next Stop: Breast Biopsyville

  1. Carol Conrad says:


    Thank you for bringing your sense of humor to a situation that is not fun at all. I’ve had a few mammogram scares myself and I know how thrilling it is to be at the mercy of someone else’s “expertise”.
    Also- this reminds me that I haven’t had a mammogram in a few years and need to make an appointment. I wonder why I hesitate (!).
    I hope your next appointment is painless and gives you some answers.
    Please keep us posted!

  2. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Carol! Yes, make that appointment right away because you never know if you had any suspicious spots from before that nobody ever mentioned.

    I can’t imagine how the biopsy will be bearable, since they’ll need a knitting needle to reach where it needs to go. And I go nuts just getting shots in the arm, so I really don’t know how I’m going to live through it wide awake. But that’s not ’til next week, so I’m going to take it one day at a time and try to put it out of my mind.

  3. zappa says:

    Percocet and white wine


  4. adele says:

    To ZM’s prescription, I’d add, for the next week, enjoy martinis and at the biopsy try to talk them into giving you some nice versed before the procedure, like you get when you have a colonoscopy — the best part of the procedure — in fact there are times when I wonder why you just can’t have a couple of days a week of conscious sedation, kind of a vacation for those of us who can’t afford to travel as much as we used to.

    I’ve mentioned my friend, Linda, who has the worst family history for breast cancer of anyone I know; she’s had a couple of biopsies with stitches, one after black spots seemed to be all over one of her breasts,; they’ve been clear, and she has gotten good drugs after.

    This is a time when we’re all wishing you a negative result and enjoyable drugs.

    Carol, I went for four years without a mammogram, and then when I got one, I was called back because they’s found something suspicious on my right breast. I had to go back for a diagnostic mammogram and then a second one in 6 months. Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing, but I spent the two weeks before the first diagnostic mammogram, giving a lot of mental energy to the idea that if I had advanced breast cancer, I’d have no one to blame but myself. Go get your mammogram.

    ZM, I know about C-Diff, one of my friends developed it after being treated with two different antibiotics for a stubborn sinus infection. She was scary-sick and her fever was so high that it took about six months for skin splotches that looked like burns to go away. She didn’t have the insurance nightmare that you did, but that’s one creepy little bacillus.

    P.S. Alice says you should have lots of chicken soup — that’s her answer for everything; I guess it comes from being raised in a 1/2 Jewish home.

  5. catsworking says:

    prettygirllost, I think your blog is very well-done; you had the hair standing up on the back of my neck while I read it. Anyone who is going through a breast cancer scare should read it. You provided details about the whole experience that people would want to know.

    ZM, Unfortunately, the last time I was prescribed painkillers was decades ago, so I don’t think I’ve got any good drugs in the house, and I know all the OTC stuff is shit. But the more I think about it (which I am trying NOT to do), the more I think they’re going to have to put me out at least a little bit because I can’t see myself just sitting there while my boob gets skewered, numbed or not. If aliens ever visit this planet after mankind is extinct, they will find museums full of torture devices from the Middle Ages, and what’s used today in women’s medicine, and they won’t be able to tell which were considered more primitive and barbaric.

    I want to thank all you ladies who are commenting on these posts. You are a real lifeline right now. I debated putting this out there, but since the healthcare system has depersonalized it and me to such a degree, I don’t feel any sense of privacy about it. On the other hand, I haven’t told my family. My mother had a biopsy not too long ago after breast reduction surgery made a mess of things under the skin (although she’s all pert and perky on the outside), and she’d be thrilled to tell me how horrible and excruciating it will be, that all doctors are stupid and won’t get it right away, that I probably have cancer and better get that will made, yada, yada. NOT the pep talk I need right now.

  6. MorganLF says:

    Karen- we are all with you and if needed I can oblidge with cocktails and perhaps a taste of an herbal substance known to be effective for the treating of glaucoma…not that I admit anything mind you! Hang in there kiddo its not time for a Brompton cocktail yet! (Bourdain reference)

  7. marilyn says:

    so sorry you are going through this scarey time. you are in my thoughts and prayers. i’d go with you for moral support if i could. stay tough!

  8. Nina says:

    Karen: Are you familiar with breast thermography? It might be something you could consider in the future. An alternative to mammograms, no radiation, no compression. Finding some place that does them can be difficult though. I had one a couple of years ago after my doc tried to put a “scare” in me, that’s how they work, it’s a profit based system after all. I’ve worked in the medical business 17 years though so I don’t scare that easily. Anyway after searching and discussing with my mother (she REFUSES to ever have another mammo because the last time they tore up her skin underneath and she ended up getting an infection), found a physician who did the thermography, it then has to be sent off to be read by a radiologist. MIne came back as fibrocystic which I TOLD that doc I had for 3 years at least, no biggy, made some lifestyle changes to improve it and lo and behold here I sit two years later. Still haven’t got that mammogram!

  9. catsworking says:

    Morgan, if we lived closer, we’d be hitting the cocktails hard this weekend, and I’d even be willing to try clearing up my imaginary glaucoma!

    Marilyn, thanks for the good thoughts. I will admit that the hardest thing about this situation is going through it alone. If my mind starts going down a crazy path, I’ve got nobody here to talk sense. And if anything happens that makes me feel like total crap, nobody’s going to feed me or the cats, so I have to stay functional.

    Nina, I’m not familiar with breast thermography so thanks for the tip. I’m going to explore all possibilities when I get to the Virginia Breast Care Center next week. My other major issue is health insurance. I have an individual policy with Anthem and they are brutal about finding ways not to pay for things, so I can’t go off on a tangent and end up paying thousands out of pocket just for comfort. I’ve got a lot to work with, so mammograms aren’t excruciating (let’s say 8 or 8.5 out of 10 for pain), but I do believe that the ritual smashing coupled with radiation can’t possibly be good for them. I’d go so far as to say that this regular brutal procedure could very possibly result in the internal damage that shows up later and must be biopsied because some of it morphs into cancer. It’s all part of the healthcare profit machine and just another way of using women’s anatomy to keep us feeling demeaned and subjugated.

    We don’t see testicles subjected to the same pain and indignity, do we?

  10. cheray smith says:

    Do get the biopsy and as soon as you possibly can!!! No matter what it takes – drugs, booze, whatever.

    Read this paragraph carefully ladies!! I had one 24 years ago. Then a lumpectomy. Then 9 months of chemo. It’s frightening as hell! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! There are many support groups out there and they are invaluable. I’VE BEEN CANCER FREE FOR ALMOST 25 YEARS. I still have yearly mamograms and I must say that most women end up receiving GOOD news….

    Good luck to you…

  11. catsworking says:

    cheray, congratulations on your complete recovery! That is inspiring! Thank you for telling us about it.

    My biopsy is Tuesday morning. I was reading about all the different kinds this afternoon. If I can just be kept from seeing the needle, I’ll probably be fine. But I don’t think I’ll be ordering shish kabob anywhere any time soon!

  12. mauigirl says:

    Karen, so sorry to hear you’re going through this. I had a suspicious mammogram a number of years ago and had the sonogram and then the biopsy too – which turned out negative. In my case they saw some dense tissue that they thought looked different from the year before (probably as I was entering menopause and fat tissues were taking over more of my breasts than the original denser tissues). The biopsy was a needle biopsy and was no big deal. They use ultrasound to map where the needle goes, and you get a local anesthetic before they use the needle I believe. It really didn’t hurt much but they wrap a tight bandage thing around you afterwards to keep down the swelling and bruising, and THAT was uncomfortable to sleep in! Best wishes, hope it is nothing for you too.

  13. catsworking says:

    Hi, mauigirl! Long time no see!

    Thanks for sharing your biopsy story. They showed me the area of concern on the x-ray and I wasn’t impressed. But what do I know, I’m not a doctor.

    I stick a needle into the scruff of Yul’s neck every day to give him fluid, and he doesn’t even blink, but I’m a total chicken about needles going into moi, even if they don’t hurt. At this point, I don’t know what kind of biopsy I’m getting. The doctor said stereotactic, which is nastier. The receptionist said plain needle. But she was talking off the top of her head. The uncertainty about what I’m supposed to be dreading is irking me quite a bit.

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