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20 December 2008 @ 05:08 pm
 

SCREENING/SURVEILLANCE IS AN OPTION!!

This is something I have come to think very strongly about.  I feel as though learning of my BRCA mutation does NOT mean a date with a surgeon.

There really ARE other options.  The only issue here is… Are YOU willing to live with  these other options.

In my case the answer was yes.  I learned of my BRCA2 mutation in 2003.  I was given the name of a woman in Toronto who was conducting a study group...  The study would consist of yearly screening, including MRI and Mammogram.  There was also a clinical breast exam, done by a DR.

I am VERY thankful that this option was presented to me when I was given my BRCA results.

Going for screening every year was quick and painless.  It took a day of my life and I was ensuring that if I did develop cancer, at least it would be caught early… very early.

I was able to go for my scans, get them done and go home… never really give it a thought or worry again, until the next year. We’d set the appointment and start over again.  No news is good news; they would only call me if something showed up that was concerning to them.

I think I would have continued this route, happily, for many years if it wasn’t for last August…

2 or 3 days after I had gone for my ‘yearly scan’ as I came to call it; I got a call saying that they had found a change in my left breast.  They called it a ‘non-mass’ and it was 7mm in diameter (I think)...  They asked if I would come back for another MRI??.. OF COURSE!!  So I had a second MRI, sure enough it was still there… So I had to go back a 3rd time to have a biopsy done.  Because the ‘thing’ was so small they had to do what’s called an MRI biopsy.  So half way through the MRI they pull me out and place needle where they had just imaged the spot… put me back in to check to make sure they have the correct spot, then pull me out and perform the biopsy.  Pretty cool stuff actually.

But the 2 or 3 months between the phone call saying they had found something; and the time when I got the results from the biopsy (which were TOTALLY clear) was incredibly stressful.  It was during that waiting period that I made my decision to go ahead with the surgery.  I decided that no matter what the results were of the biopsy, the action I would take would be the same.

I’m extremely pleased that it wasn’t a cancer diagnosis, and that I have this opportunity to go ahead and take this step in preventing breast cancer in my life.


A WALK THROUGH A BREAST MRI

I’ve had 6+ over the past few years so I’ll walk you through my process.

First they had me disrobe and put 2 hospital gowns on … the first one on like a coat (open in front) and the other front to back. That way when I go into the machine I can take off the top one, expose my breasts and still be covered in the back.

Then they sat me on a gurney and went through a questionnaire, allergies, etc. They were very concerned about any metal that may or may not be there, piercing etc. Absolutely NO metal allowed. They even asked if I had ever welded, and if it were possible that I might have a small piece of metal in my eye. This is when they offered me the Ativan. The fist time I did take it, it’s about half the size of the tip of a pencil eraser, and it dissolves under your tongue in seconds.

At that time they put in my IV. So that they can inject a contrast dye about half way through the procedure.

I was walked to the MRI room, which is kept quite chilly (when I asked “why so cold” they said ‘the magnet’ likes the cold, it will shut down if it gets too warm) The technician asked me to take off the first robe, then she handed me two vitamin E tablets with tape on them. I was to tape them loosely to my nipple (it gives them a reference point as to where the nipple is during the scan). Then I hopped on to the machine and laid on my stomach. They get my breasts centered in the holes with plastic plates on either side. Once you are situated they move the plates together to immobilize your breasts (nothing like a mammogram! And should not be painful at all) Then they covered me up with blankets, they even put a pillow under my feet. They gave me earplugs and the ‘emergency call’ button, in this case, was a rubber ball that they put in my hand. Then they wheeled me into the machine. They can talk to you through this microphone … I heard them VERY clearly. They can also hear me (I was sure to check that out when I first laid down)

My first MRI, the lady said to imagine myself on a beach and there is a cool breeze passing over… That helped, because there was a breeze during the whole procedure. Unfortunately because of the Ativan I was pretty relaxed and kept forgetting I wasn’t supposed to move. They had to keep telling me to be still!

Even with my being claustrophobic, I have not taken the Ativan since that first time. I am able to relax and think of something else (I find the rhythmic clinging of the magnets soothing)… Actually I’ve noticed I am so relaxed I always seem to drool!!

The whole thing is not done all at once... they take a series of pictures. Ranging from 30sec to 2min in length, with a small break in between when the tech will speak with you.  You mustn’t move throughout any of it.

For me when the dye was injected, I felt a rush of cold go up the inside of my arm (the IV was in my hand) almost like cool water dripping UP my arm, weird feeling, but not at all painful.

All in all I like the MRI experience and of course its amazing just how much they can see with that technology now.

There is always something to bear in mind when talking about an MRI scan:

The GREAT thing about MR is that they see EVERYTHING. 

The BAD thing about MR is that they see EVERYTHING!

So like me, you may get a call about a ‘false positive’; it’s when the machine is too accurate, it finds things that are of no concern at all, simply a change from one scan to the next.