Follow-up with My Surgeon

On Wednesday, I went to see my surgeon to go over the results of my mammogram and to have him take a look at my breast implants and surgery site from my surgery that was just about four months ago. When he came into the exam room, he said that yes, I have some small cysts in my right breast, but that he is 0% concerned about them. I asked him if the cysts could turn into cancer, and he said no, they wouldn’t as they are benign. I asked him if anything needs to be done about the cysts, and he said that we do not need to do anything concerning them; they will most likely go away with time. He said that he is very pleased with the images from my mammogram and ultrasound and that everything is clear and looks great! {He explained to me when he ordered the mammogram that we had to wait for at least six months after finishing my radiation treatments to do it, or the images would be cloudy, so that is why I had to wait so long.}

Next, he took a look at how I have healed from my last surgery and how my breast implants are settling in. Everything is looking good so far, but my chest has not finished settling into place, meaning that the area under my left breast, in particular, has not dropped down and rounded out, it is still somewhat flat. It takes time for the internal part of the chest to heal and for the implant to get into place, so there is nothing to be alarmed about; my body just needs more time.

We do have to watch for a complication from my breast implants. It is called Capsular Contracture, and it is a breast augmentation complication that develops when internal scar tissue forms a tight or constricting capsule around a breast implant, contracting it until it becomes misshapen and hard. When my surgeon put my breast implants in, he added donor tissue to help prevent this complication from happening, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen anyway. He said that if it does happen, I will need to gauge my level of pain, watch for distortion, let him know that I have a problem, and that I am in pain that I can’t bear. He explained that some patients would have a severe case of Capsular Contracture and have very little pain, while others would have a milder case and have horrible pain. He said that if the pain is too much for me, I need to tell him to fix it, meaning I will need to go into surgery and have my implants removed. Whether or not I would need to have a new set of implants put in or have them left out is hard to say; it just depends on the circumstances. Being the excellent surgeon that he is, he told me that this could happen when we were discussing the option of breast implants. I told him that it was worth the risk to me as I was feeling very out of proportion after my first reconstruction surgery. I wanted to feel like me again and not the stranger staring back at me in the mirror.

The reason why we were even discussing this horrible complication on Wednesday was that he pointed out that the implant in my left breast is much firmer than the implant in my right breast during my exam. The firmness is caused by the 25 radiation treatments that were part of the breast cancer treatment performed on my left breast. So, it is already firm, and I need to watch it and check to make sure that I don’t have any harder areas that could indicate a problem is developing.

Unless I notice anything in the meantime, I will not go back to follow-up with him until six months from now. I have fewer appointments with my oncologist and surgeon these days, a real sign that I am healing and adjusting to life after breast cancer. πŸ’•

Breast Cancer Growth Rate

I came across this article recently and it was really shocking to me. I have always understood that breast cancer grows by cell division, but I had no idea of the timing from when it starts to when you can feel a lump in the breast like I did. I know that the information below is scary, but I am posting this to inform my readers because I truly believe that when it comes to breast cancer, early detection and information are key. If you won’t listen to me, listen to a doctor who makes it clear in the article below that a yearly mammogram is so incredibly important. As you know, I also believe that a monthly self-exam between mammograms is just as important. I don’t want anyone to go through what I have been through in the last 18 months, so if I can help just one reader understand the importance of mammograms then I have done my job.

Speaking of mammograms…my last mammogram was before my first surgery in April 2019. Now that I am over six months out from my last radiation treatment it is time to finally have a mammogram done to make sure that cancer has not come back. My surgeon explained that we couldn’t have a mammogram done any sooner than now because the radiation causes the images to look cloudy. So, next Monday I will have the mammogram done that my surgeon ordered back in February. I am scared, to say the least, but I am trying to have faith that all of the chemo and radiation treatments killed any tiny cancer cells that may have been too small to detect after my first surgery.

Ask an Expert: Breast cancer growth rate

From the expert staff of breast cancer research at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center at Providence Portland Medical Center:

Like a lot of cancers, breast cancer grows by simple cell division. It begins as one malignant cell, which then divides and becomes two bad cells, which divide again and become four bad cells, and so on. Breast cancer has to divide 30 times before it can be felt. Up to the 28th cell division, neither you nor your doctor can detect it by hand.

With most breast cancers, each division takes one to two months, so by the time you can feel a cancerous lump, cancer has been in your body for two to five years. It can certainly seem like a lump appeared out of nowhere β€“ especially if you or your doctor have recently examined your breasts and not felt anything suspicious β€“ but in reality, cancer has simply doubled that one last time necessary to be noticeable. By the time you can feel it, a breast tumor is usually a little more than one-half inch in size β€“ about a third the size of a golf ball. It has also been in your body long enough to have had a chance to spread.

This sounds scary, but what it really underscores is the importance of regular mammograms. These screening tests can usually detect breast cancer when it’s about one-quarter inch in size or smaller – a year or more before it would be detectable by hand. Mammograms also make possible the early diagnosis of some pre-cancerous conditions and early-stage cancers that appear as tiny calcifications (microcalcifications) on mammography but aren’t detectable by physical examination.

It’s important to realize that there are two types of mammograms:

screeningmammogram is performed in cases where there isn’t any known problem. This type of mammogram is used for annual exams.

A diagnostic mammogram is performed when there is a known problem that requires careful evaluation. Diagnostic mammograms provide much more extensive images than screening mammograms, such as views from additional angles and compression, or blow-up, views. Often an ultrasound will be done in addition to the mammogram if there is a palpable lump. Make sure you receive a diagnostic mammogram if you’ve found a lump.

Once a breast cancer gets big, every doubling is significant. If you find a lump, see your doctor as soon as possible. Don’t settle for just a mammogram if the mammogram doesn’t find anything. The next step should be a screening ultrasound, and if those results are indeterminate you need to get a biopsy. Ask your doctor for these tests if he or she doesn’t schedule them.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Some people have asked me if I am done with my journey now that my chemotherapy treatments are over, and the answer is “No”. I will not be done until I have been through my 3rd surgery, radiation and follow-up imaging showing that there is no sign of cancer anywhere in my body. With that said, the piece I have shared below is so true…I have already been through some of these with more to come….πŸ˜”

πŸŽ€ Breast cancer awareness month is NOT all pretty pink bows πŸŽ€

Please consider the following women this month:

πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman being diagnosed right now scared out of her mind wondering how long she has to live.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman about to undergo surgery to have a part or all of her breasts amputated.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman undergoing her first chemo treatment wearing an ice cap on her head in an attempt to save her hair and therefore her identity.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman who cries herself to sleep from the agony of the pain in her bones from the medication she has to take to combat the low blood cell counts.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman trying to comb her hair as gently as possible as to not have too many clumps come out at once.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman who has radiation burns so badly she can barely lift her arms.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman who’s trying to choke down soup or water but mouth sores, throat, and esophagus make it painful.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman in the beautiful scarf covering her newly bald head.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman hovering over the toilet trying not to throw up from the stomach pains and nausea.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman who’s stuck at home because the diarrhea makes it difficult to be away from a bathroom for too long.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman who financially can not afford to miss another day of work for yet another treatment session.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman who has to take maintenance medication that changes her and makes her feel like a different person.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman lying in bed at night unable to sleep wondering if she’s done all she can to prevent it from coming back to kill her.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman lying in bed at night unable to sleep because she knows it’s already come back and wants more than anything to live to fight another day.
πŸŽ€πŸ’ͺ🏻 The woman who’s lost her fight and family mourns her loss in this world.

~Written by Bethany Young, Cancer Survivor~

ER

May 31st, 2019

Mood: Scared 😟

I went to the ER at about 4:30am this morning. This chest pain is something I have never felt before, very intense, very scary. I don’t remember all of the details clearly but they started with a EKG. I have had a CT, blood tests, EKGs and everything is normal. They are trying to figure it out. The cardiologist will be seeing me next, doing a stress test.

***Update***
I am back home now. After all of the scans, EKGs, a CT, x-ray, etc, all coming back negative, they determined that my pain was caused by the chemo drugs. I am having my 2nd treatment next Thursday so we will talk to my oncologist and see if any changes need to be made.

Random Thought

May 25th, 2019

Random thought of the day…it is really hard to drink 1/2 of my body weight, in ounces mostly water, every day! It is an essential task while going through chemo so I am figuring it out. My Fitbit app is helping me keep track so that has been awesome!

I am still feeling good today so that is a huge plus! Have a great holiday weekend everyone! πŸ’•

Next Steps

May 17th, 2019

Mood: Anxious 😏

Quick update…I saw my surgeon on Wednesday and he said that everything looks great concerning my surgery site. We scheduled the surgery to install my port for chemo which will be done today, Friday. It is a quick 30 minute surgery and it sounds like it is very routine, so I am not having as much anxiety about it as I did with the first surgery, which was much longer and far more difficult.

I had an Echocardiogram on Thursday and the results will be back either tomorrow or Monday. I am not expecting anything out of the ordinary in the results. The tech said that when I held my breath for her the chambers in my heart were opening big and strong and closing normally. It was pretty cool to see and hear my heart beating on the screen.