Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mammograms Part 1 of 2

12-10-09 complex brain

I am a “vibrant” 54 year old and I’m due for my annual mammogram this month. What am I going to do?..... schedule one before Christmas? or skip this year?

The back story about me- which affects my decision making is:

I’m a *former hypochondriac. While I attended nursing school for 1.5 years, back in the mid 1970’s, every new disease we would study, I would begin to feel like I was experiencing the symptoms. Logically I knew I did not have that particular disease, but I, none the less, was always acutely aware what my body was doing and feeling.

Even in graduate school, while studying nutrition and food science, I suspected that I was suffering from one vitamin deficiency or another. When I started working in the cancer research field, I was also on high alert for any changes in my body which might indicate a developing cancer.

My top three paranoid fears were:
1) Pancreatic cancer; since survival rates are dismal.
2) Ovarian cancer; since the symptoms are vague and often diagnosis is found after the cancer has already spread throughout the abdomen. Stage 4
3) Cancer in-situ of the breast (pre-cancer, non-invasive, intra-ductal breast cancer)

You’re probably bewildered why I would put a pre-cancerous disease on my list…..The reasoning is that the treatment of this disease has been and still is controversial, and the significance of in-situ disease of the breast has not been agreed upon.

Over my 26 year involvement with cancer data collection, I have attended many conferences and listened to differing opinions of non-invasive breast cancer.

Some feel this type of “in-situ” disease comes and goes in our bodies. Our natural immune systems can help of fight off pre-cancer cells every day.

Some feel in-situ disease is a sign of a developing cancer, while others believe a person can live with this for decades and not be bother.

I have personally know four women who where diagnosed with in-situ cancer; two chose to have the small spot removed, then were given radiation treatments; the other two went full out and had both breasts removed and reconstructed. Not an easy surgery.

What would I do if I were diagnosed with in-situ breast cancer? ….. My fear was that I would just want to wait and do nothing…… a strange plan coming from a hypochondriac like I was.

Continued tomorrow

*Former: I’m not totally sure why I am no longer am a hypochondriac, or when this transformation happened. I believe it has something to do with me no longer fearing death. And that has been a slow process of me growing in faith and connecting on a deeper spiritual level. (Totally another blog topic for later)


  1. I think that you have the knowledge you need to now make an informed decision. Why not get a mammogram? What are the risks? At least you have a baseline if something should look abnormal. That is how I look at it. If you decide to have one or not is your health management. It is different for everyone. Determine the best plan for you, maybe mammo every other year, and then follow your plan.

  2. Don't over think it. If not in Dec, then in Jan.

  3. One of my best friends had DCIS about 9 years ago at age 38. Hers was very invasive and she didn't have a clue until she started getting a bloody/brownish discharge from the nipple. She elected to have the breast removed and reconstructed at the same time, and also to have breast reduction on the other one as she was quite large. Her recovery time was horrible, as you can imagine with all that going on. She is cancer-free and a fanatic about follow-up visits, exercise and diet.

    In the neighborhood where we lived, there were five women diagnosed with breast cancer or pre-cancerous tumors within a two-year period, and they all lived within shouting distance. How's that for statistics? Makes you wonder.

    I'm behind on mammograms. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Ladies: Don't get too far behind on mammograms!!