I had my first mammogram at age thirty-five...partly for baseline, partly because I'd thought I'd felt a lump. It was chostrochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage in the chest)
I had my second at age forty...partly because I'd turned forty, partly because I'd found another lump. I got called back after the mammogram, went in for an ultrasound. They did a fine needle aspiration right then and after some agonizing days the pathology report said, "Benign cyst."
My third mammogram was the following year. The mammogram found a suspicious area (same general area as the cyst), and so again I went back for an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a shadow; that meant it was a solid mass which is far scarier than a liquid cyst. A fine needle aspiration wasn't sufficient; I had to come back later for a biopsy. The doctor and tech both looked concerned, and tried to be reassuring but kept repeating things like, "No need to worry until we know what we are dealing with." To a hypochondriac like me (or more accurately a permanent medical student syndrome sufferer), that wasn't the least bit reassuring. It over a full month from the mammogram to the results of the biopsy, which was galactocoele (aka milk cyst). Benign.
Part of the reason my post last night was so lame was because I was dreading this morning. Yup, mammogram number four was this morning. I tried to be positive this time, not freaked out, not worrying, not saying to myself, "What if this time...?" I tried to convince myself that this time they'd find nothing, and I could leave the radiology suite smiling naturally instead of forcibly. And I was afraid to do that, afraid that hoping for the best was jinxing me for the worst. Because I learned that's how it works in medical school.
This time they found several little calcifications. "Punctuated calcifications" which is the good kind, the variety "rarely associated with malignancy." In fact, the radiologist recommended that I just return in six months for a follow up. But I dug in my heals...I know me all too well. I'd spend many a sleepless night fretting that perhaps I was the exception. When I was all PMS-y I'd look at my kids faces and tear up, torturing myself by imagining them growing up without me. Every time I'd see a pink ribbon I'd break out into a mini cold sweat.
So I sat with him in his dark office, holding the microscope and looking at X-rays of my boobs, specifically at those punctuated calcifications and he said, "Ninety-nine percent of the time these are signs of benign changes."
I said, "I don't want to spend the next six months fearing I'm that one percent. Nope, I want a biopsy."
So now I wait for the call to schedule the biopsy.