Spoke Too Soon?

Fresh on the feeling of being sooo proud of myself for finally having my mammogram, and then being thrilled that it really wasn’t a big deal at all, I got a call from Kaiser. The nurse wanted to schedule me for a follow-up, diagnostic mammogram and a possible ultrasound. And she wouldn’t tell me why.


It was pure coincidence that I had an appointment today with my OB/GYN for a routine follow-up to last summer’s ickiness. So when I went in, she looked up the results for me and we discussed what was going on. The radiologist’s diagnosis noted what appeared to be a 7mm nodule in my left breast. However, what this “nodule” really is, or if it is really even there, requires the second mammogram (which apparently requires pressing harder – again, awesome) and ultrasound if that’s inconclusive.

Oh, really? 7mm sounds pretty small but it’s not microscopic. It’s about the width of my pinky fingernail, for instance, and it’s certainly something large enough that a person, like me, who does careful self-exams every month, would probably notice! I felt nothing. My doctor, who I’d expect to be even better at examining boobs than me, after reading these notes from the radiologist, couldn’t feel anything either. And she knew exactly where to look!

So what does all of this mean? I’ll be going back for the diagnostic mammogram (which at least they only have to do to the one, affected boob) later this month. I’ll have an ultrasound at that time, if necessary. But most likely it all amounts to nothing at all. In women my age, who need to have mammograms as part of the standard protocol, but haven’t yet entered menopause, mammography is tricky. Because we’re still pulsing with hormonal goodness, images are usually unclear, and there is a high percentage (up to 10% of every 1000 women who have a mammogram) of false positives. Reading about this on Wikipedia this morning made me feel better, and so did WebMD:

According to the American Cancer Society, only 1 or 2 mammograms out of every 1,000 lead to a diagnosis of cancer. Approximately 10% of women will require additional mammography. Don’t be alarmed if this happens to you. Only 8% – 10% of those women will need a biopsy, and 80% of those biopsies will not be cancer.

I figure this is just the latest in a long line of weird and/or false positive results to routine tests that I’ve had over the years. I’ve had numerous abnormal PAP tests, which led to everything from repeat testing to colposcopy to the awful endometrial biopsy that I had last summer. In every case, it turned out to be nothing. Compared to a biopsy, having a repeat mammogram is really, in my opinion, no big deal.