Biopsyville: You Don’t Wanna Go There

By Karen

Yesterday was B day. After reviewing my growing mammogram portfolio, the doctor said, “I don’t think it looks like cancer, because cancer shows up dense and black, and yours is white.”

She also shared that it’s at “8 o’clock” in my right breast, and 7 mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser. She couldn’t feel it.

Doing another ultrasound, she decided it might be a harmless lymph node and gave me 2 choices:

Stereotactic biopsy on the spot.


Wait 6 months and be tested again.

Since this ordeal has revealed my high intolerance for cancer, I opted for the biopsy. But the only way to do it without rescheduling was to have it under local anesthesia only. The doctor acted like this was no big deal, and ran off to arrange things.

The Virginia Breast Center uses the Mammotome® torture biopsy device.

Mammotome® describes how it works very matter-of-factly and, tellingly, without video. Nor could I find a depiction for you anywhere else.

Here’s how it went down for me…

I climbed onto a very high table to lie face down with my right breast hanging through a hole, sort of like a car on the lift at Jiffy Lube. A technician sat under the table.

Lying down was almost a deal-breaker because I had trouble finding a position that didn’t feel like I’d end up with broken ribs. I was under strict orders NOT to lift my head or shoulders or pull back during the procedure.

For yet more mammography, my breast was smashed on both sides so excruciatingly hard, tears began to flow. This pressure was maintained for the duration.

Next, they administered local anesthesia. I never saw any of the needles, but last night I found a Band-Aid over my right nipple. I can only assume a needle was inserted into my nipple opening, and that’s what it felt like.

I was now audibly sobbing while someone held down my back.

Whatever numbing ensued, it wasn’t enough. As the thicker biopsy needle went into the top of my breast, I felt burning.

Now I was hyperventilating and I think I screamed once, but they warned, “Don’t pull away or we’ll have to start over,” so I had to surrender to the unspeakable pain while the Mammotome® “gently vacuumed and cut” inside my breast and left behind a little present, a “safe, tiny device” of unknown composition, to mark the spot forever.

After they removed all the needles and loosened the vise, they cleaned and bandaged me, said something about a “large hematoma,” and told me it was now time for…are you ready for this?


I thought they were fucking KIDDING. But no. They needed to document my new microchip, or whatever it is. From now on, I assume if I ever get lost, I can wander to the nearest vet’s office to be scanned and reunited with my cats.

The final mammographer went easy on me because I was wobbling. They had me sit down and drink a glass of water before letting me drive home.

I could have used a fifth of vodka.

Today, gauze still covers the incision, and that Band-Aid’s on my nipple. I can see some blood. I’ll be able to more fully assess the damage and take a shower tonight.

If you’ve had any trouble following this, let me put it in a nutshell:

A stereotactic biopsy under local anesthesia is like having a large man in work boots stand firmly on your breast while he shoots it point-blank with fine-gauge nails.

They said they got a good sample for the biopsy (no doubt!), and I’m supposed to hear the results on June 23. I’ll let you know how that goes, and I hope it’s the end of this.


9 Responses to Biopsyville: You Don’t Wanna Go There

  1. marilyn says:

    So glad it’s all over! In this day and age it seems procedures could be made less painful. Take it easy and know you are being thought of with love.

  2. MorganLF says:

    I am a big sissy and had to skip some of this it made me woozy…but hope all is ok and glad your outta there.

  3. zappa says:

    unfucking believable……can’t this be done under general anesthesia? If you are mercifully knocked out to have a camera roaming through your colon,why in fuck’s name do you have to stay awake through this?


  4. catsworking says:

    Thanks for the well wishes, Marilyn. Today I’m feeling wrung out, but otherwise doing OK and the boob is sore like someone stomped it, but not unbearably so.

    Morgan, when I saw that Band-Aid across my nipple, I got a little light-headed. I am thrilled to have the worst of it behind me. At least, I think so.

  5. catsworking says:

    ZM, I really don’t know the answer to that. The Mammotome site says something about being fully awake like it’s a walk in the park. Obviously, NOBODY who has anything to do with it has ever undergone the procedure. And I’m having a hard time getting my head around the fact that the people in this practice routinely subject women to it without addressing the pain involved.

    I’ve been lucky in my life. Except for normal, non-invasive maintenance stuff, I have virtually NO experience with surgical procedures, so I had no idea how ineffective local anesthesia would be.

    The doctor did tell me I could pop a Valium or whatever if I had one on me, but I’m not into prescription painkillers because Anthem had a field day jacking up my insurance premiums after I took an antidepressant for a few months.

    I can promise you one thing — I will NEVER accept local anesthesia again because that shit’s worse than useless. If they don’t knock me out first, they’ll have to catch me running out of the building.

  6. Sherrie says:

    Thank you again for sharing all the details.

    It may not be what we want to know but unfortunately this is reality. Tomorrow I go for more tests. I feel a little better educated on mammotone after reading your experience. Certainly not what I envisioned for a biopsy.

    My thoughts are with you.I hope the memories of this fade quickly and life returns to normal for you soon.

  7. catsworking says:

    Sherrie, I just think the doctors and the manufacturers’ websites should be more honest about the pain involved. Whenever they hand you some crap about “you may feel slight discomfort,” you’re pretty well guaranteed they’re going to be peeling you off the ceiling.

    Unfortunately, all these “professionals” are leaving it up to real women who’ve been through it to put the truth out there so you can be forewarned and know what questions you need to ask.

    I hope your tests go OK, but don’t be surprised if they say “to be 100% sure, you’ll need a biopsy.”

    I felt like the 2nd round of mammo/ultrasound was totally unnecessary, since they knew before I even walked in the door they’d recommend biopsy.

    I took the gauze off the disaster site last night. There’s a big bruise and the bandage over the incision is very bloody (that has to stay on 4-5 days), but it’s not as bad as I expected. This morning I took a shower and was afraid to let the water hit that boob, but it was OK.

  8. Noel McWormald says:

    What you experienced with the “small white mass” was exactly what I had, Karen. About 8 years ago. They had me come back 3 months after they discovered it I believe (instead of 6) and then they said it was nothing. They never even mentioned needing a biopsy. Then I went back 6 months later again to be sure. Truth is, now I’m BEHIND on mammography and will make an appointment immediately. Let me know if you need anything… or if you want to go see Bad Teacher with me. My treat. I have a gift card. The movie may be stupid and it did lead to an equally stupid story on Inside Edition, I believe it was, about how there are MANY (yes they said many) teachers that are really like the Cameron Diaz character? MANY? Yes, Mary Kay Letourneaus and Pamela Smarts are running rampant through our schools. Good reporting! See, there I am again. Going nuts on the teaching profession. I just can’t help myself. Funny they didn’t link “BAD” to all the “BAD” members of Congress. That’s where most of the real pervs live and work. Call me when you get your results!

  9. adele says:

    Karen, hope you get good news today and that you heal fast. You know as you described the procedure (which sounds like it should be prohibited by the Geneva convention), I wondered if one of the problems with the local was that they didn’t wait long enough for it to take effect. I’ve had a lot of dental work done, and I know that it must take me longer to get numb than it takes some people.

    This certainly seems like a procedure where conscious sedation could be used. Apparently when we’re given that delightful versed and whatever cocktail before colonoscopies and endoscopies, we think we’re knocked out, but we actually respond to directions. You’d think that there are enough women in the medical profession now that someone would come up with some less traumatic way of dealing with this type of biopsy. They used to do colonocopies with no sedation, and now the only bad part of them is the prep.

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