Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Biopsies (as long to read as it was to do)

August 27, 2009.  It's biopsy day, and I'm scheduled for two: one an ultrasound-guided core biopsy and the other a stereotactic biopsy.

Why two?  The stereotactic is to sample the calcifications, and the core biopsy is to sample the bigger tumor.

My husband asked if me if he should come, but I said no, I'd be fine.  He'd just be sitting in the waiting room anyway.  However, when I got there and saw that it was a place called the Breast Center, I realized he probably would have loved it.

What guy doesn't want to go to a breast center?

Anyway, my appointment was at 11:00 and I got there early and filled out the requisite paperwork and sat down.  As in all of these medical buildings, the TV was on and blaring, and not a soul was watching. I decided that if this was going to be my life, I'm going to invest in one of those TV remote control jammers so I can secretly shut it off.

God forbid I should have cancer AND be forced to watch The View.
At about 11:30, they took me back to a little room and had me take my top off and put on a cloth gown.  They gave me a locker key and  told me to put my stuff in there and lock it up.  They asked me to put my phone away too.  I told them I wasn't going to use it as a phone, just for internet, but she pointed to a sign that said "no phone".  So, being the docile being I am, I complied.  Then I sat and waited in a small room with no TV thank goodness, some old copies of People Magazine and oddly, Field and Stream.  There were bakery cookies and lemon water and hard candies, in case we were hungry.  There was an elderly Irish lady there with well-managed Parkinson's and we chatted a bit.  She was chomping those cookies like nobody's business too.

They were having difficulties with their equipment, and were running behind.  I was told it'd be a few minutes but it was two hours until they stuck the first needle in me.

At 12:00, I opened my locker and got my phone out.  I had tried to do what they wanted which was totally against my nature, but I'm done being the good patient.  They really can't expect me to sit there for hours without it.  Nobody said anything.  

Finally, they called me in.  The first test was the ultrasound-guided core biopsy. I  lay back on a table and they put betadine on my breast and then the transmitting gel.  The doctor came in and told me it would hurt, but it wasn't painful at all, and it was very interesting because I could watch it on the ultrasound. I could see the cancer clearly and I saw the needle go in with the medicine to numb all around it. Then they take a gun type thing and shoot a needle in to take larger core samples, and I could watch that too. It was really fascinating to see it go right through the cancer and take out a piece, and you can see the tracks it leaves. They marked the tumor is 2.4 cm x 1.3 x 2.1.. They had my other sonogram pictures there to make sure they got the same measurements and view.

Unfortunately, I bled pretty badly,  and they had to hold a LOT of pressure on for 20 minutes. I mean, that woman was pressing on my my breast with all her big-boned might - it was the most painful thing I'd done so far.    I now have a very large hematoma in that area - she said these tumors are sometimes very vascular. I asked how long that would last and she said for months, but probably would be taken out with my surgery which I guess means she, too consulted with Dr. Google and thinks it's cancerous.

Now, here is my first bit of advice for any woman who finds this blog who may go through the same thing: If, for any reason, you think you might want pictures of your breasts before a mastectomy - take them before your biopsy.  I had in the back of my head I'd be like Christina Applegate and take some good-bye pictures as soon as it was a 100% diagnosis,  but after what they look like after the biopsy -  not being a photoshop expert* - that's out.  You can always delete them if your biopsy comes out negative but if it's positive, your bruising and swelling may not be gone before your surgery.

Because I was shivering, and said I'd not eaten, the tech got very concerned about me and insisted I have some food.  They brought me nuts and juice.  I really was not hungry and was shivering because I was topless with cold gel and ice on my boob in a 60 degree room, but she would not be deterred.  I sipped some apple juice and ate a couple of nuts to appease her.

Then, I was taken back to the cookie room, wrapped in blankets and with ice on my boob. When the tech left,  I stashed the rest of the nuts in my purse.   I waited for the next test, the stereotactic biopsy. My iPhone was starting to run out of battery so I definitely need to get one of those charging cases.

In the stereotactic, they put you  face-down on this big table with a hole in it, and a sliding door thing in the hole. You put your affected boob through the hole and they use the slidey thing to keep your other boob up and out of the way.  It looks like something made in a high school shop class.

I think this could be very useful for prostate and testicular surgeries too, they should look into it. Har har.

Anyway, as your boob hangs through the hole, they clamp it with a mammogram machine and take pictures. Then the doctor comes in and drills - okay, vacuums out pieces of your breast with a hollow needlle.  You can't see anything with this one as you are lying in a torturous position and everything happens underneath you.. Once finished, they magnify the hunks of meat they take out of you, which was interesting but meaningless to me - I hadn't seen those online -  and make sure they got what they wanted, and you are done. Neither test was painful - I felt a 10th of a second bee sting type feeling but it was so fleeting it doesn't count.  The worst part of this one was you have to lie on the table in an uncomfortable position that hurts your neck and you can't move for 20 minutes. They also added some little clips inside my breast as markers.

I bled after this one too, so they made me wait until it was a trickle and then bound me up with tape like a Victorian woman.  I was instructed to put ice on it for 20 minutes every hour, and I was sent home.

I'm supposed to rest today and do nothing, and go back to normal the next day. The radiology physican said he'd get the results to my doctor the next day,  so I'll know for 100% sure then.

*No, you can't volunteer.


  1. This post had me in stitches. I can relate. I had my stereotactic biopsy in Nov. and it came back positive. I knew too.
    Your humor is great. I have the same attitude.

  2. I had to have biopsies twice.
    My GP sent me for the first. The room was like a cave. I could have reached my arms out to almost touch each side. I had to lay on a hard table and hold myself in an awkward position. The doctor spent the time waiting for the numbing to take effect telling me how she had hated getting a thyroid biopsy herself recently and then just before she started she said, "If you feel anything, just say so and I'll numb it a little more." She did not numb it deep enough. When she reached that deep, she found out how high a pitch this first soprano could reach.
    When I got to the cancer center, my surgeon said she wanted another biopsy as the first one did not check for some things. I was really dreading it. She said a family member could come in and my brave husband immediately deferred to our grown daughter. I was placed in something like an oversized easy chair, and my daughter was encouraged to keep my mind off it (from across the room where I could hear her but she wouldn't see anything). We talked about Bach and Baroque music and organs and harpsichords. I never felt a thing and the very experienced surgeon said she had never heard a conversation quite like that during a biopsy. Really, what did she expect with a music teacher and a music major?

  3. Very funny descriptions. You are a good writer. Coming from a former English teacher!! Melanie I love laughing about my own cancer….the BEST medicine, by far!!


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