Monday, February 3, 2014

Things That Would Have Been Nice to Know

Did you know that a hysterectomy and the hormone changes that come with it can change the density of your breast? And that the tissue can become much more fibrous?  I had no clue.  I knew hormone changes could cause soreness, but I did not realize it could change the whole make up of “the girls.”

Since my surgery, my breasts have been intermittently sore. Often to the point that hugs hurt. Normally, this might not be too big an issue, but I come from a family of huggers.  And they don’t give little spaghetti armed, polite pat on the back sorts of hugs. They hug you with the intention of squeezing any sort of sadness right out of your ears.  So needless to say…OUCH.

 I really thought the soreness would have gone away by now. It’s been 6 months since my hysterectomy but it hasn't. And about 2 months ago, I noticed that my left side was particularly sore under the arm.  And it was non-stop.   I finally called for a mammogram. I was a year and half overdue, so I figured I might as well get it done.

I told the scheduler about my hysterectomy and hormone replacement when I made the appointment. She acknowledged that and I assumed had put the information in my chart.  I went in on the 22nd and had the procedure done and fully expected an all clear post card a few days later.

On the 28th I received a call telling me that I needed to come back in for more screening because my left breast looked “suspicious.”  The appointment was made for the following week. A day later I got a letter in the mail informing me that additional imaging was recommended. (yeah, I figured that out when I got the phone call.)  The letter also said:
“Effective July 1st, 2013, The Indiana Senate passed a law (SenateBill 414) stating we must notify you of your breast density type….”    OK. That’s interesting. 

The options were:  Almost Entirely Fatty, Scattered Fibroglandular Tissue, Heterogeneously Dense, and Extremely Dense.

Apparently mine are heterogeneously dense. “Your mammogram shows that your breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue is very common and is not abnormal. But dense breast tissue can make it harder to find cancer on mammograms. Also, dense breast tissue may increase your breast cancer risk.”   

Really?  I understand that awareness and education are key. These are very important. But jeez oh Pete!  Way to add fuel to my already overly active and anxious imagination. I KNOW that my risks are low. There is NO family history of breast or ovarian cancer. But that is still a bit nerve-racking. 

So, for the next week instead of thinking about my boobs, I stuck my head in the sand and  hyper-focused on vacation planning. (which I had started doing a couple days before I got the call)  I looked at several hundred rentals in Michigan and the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia. In that time I spent well over 40 hours obsessing about finding the perfect place.  I spent maybe an hour looking up information on breast issues. At that point, I figured it was better for me to NOT dwell on what may or may not be going on.  

I had my second screening this morning. The technician explained that they were concerned because my breast looked dramatically different from my last mammogram. I had gone from “Almost entirely fatty” to “heterogeneously dense” in a year and a half.  I mentioned the hormones and hysterectomy again, which seemed to surprise the tech.  It was NOT in my file. She actually looked relieved.  But we still had to go through the whole squishing thing. This was a LOT more uncomfortable than before. In this sort of situation they want as FLAT a view as possible. And the fact that the suspicious area was near the chest wall made it that much more difficult to get a good image. The doctor looked at the scans immediately and decided that I also needed an ultrasound. That was a lot easier and did not hurt at all.  

Doc decide that this was fibrous tissue caused by hormone changes but wants me to come in for another scan in 6 months to make sure nothing has grown.  

Everything seems to fine and that is a huge relief. Not crazy that I have to come back in 6 months. It is what it is. But it certainly would have been nice to know that these changes were a possibility right from the start.  It would not have changed my mind about having the surgery. But knowing would have prevented a bit of worry on my part.  

 A site with information on the importance of understanding breast density.