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Breast cancer question

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2334
Joined: Jun 2010

Hi-
I'm posting here because I have a good friend on the breast cancer board and I just don't want to worry her (she's had a recurrence and has enough on her plate). But I need some feedback. I know several here have also had breast cancer, and the rest of you are just plain savvy. So here it goes . . .

I finished treatments (radiation and chemo) for Stage 1, Grade 2, breast cancer December 1, 2010. Right breast. Everything is looking good. I now have a palpable lump in my LEFT breast. My primary care physician seems worried (so am I). Monday morning I will schedule a unilateral mammogram and ultrasound asap. I just had a mammogram in June and exam by my breast surgeon and all was well - now 4 months later this. My pcp says she won't accept another negative mammogram report, so my guess is if it is negative, we'll move on to a breast MRI or biopsy without MRI.

My understanding is if this turns out to be breast cancer, it's another primary cancer, not a metastasis of the original cancer and I think that's "better" than metastasis. I've also been told once you've had breast cancer in one breast, your risks are higher for developing it in the other breast. Swell. What I don't understand is if it was there last year, just not palpable or visible, why didn't the chemotherapy I had last year kill it? And I'm on Arimidex! Does that imply this might not be estrogen receptor positive? And, of course, why me?

If this turns out to be cancer, it will be my third primary cancer diagnosis in 18 months (first endometrial and breast, now whatever this is). From the getgo I've worried about having 2 cancers at the same time. Like where else might I have cancer, but no one else has been concerned. Since my cancers last year were both early stage, low grade, I never had any MRIs or scans, and I thought this was a good thing. Both breasts have been examined by so many people over the past year, but no one felt this lump until now. I, however, have always felt that breast was not right and I've asked numerous times if my left breast was ok. I asked my med onc 3 months ago about whether we were watching me enough since I had the 2 cancers at the same time. She said yes. Yet, if I hadn't felt this lump myself . . .

This lump could turn out to not be cancer, but "they" do take things like this seriously when one has already had a cancer dx. I have regular appointments this month with my pcp, rad onc and med onc. I intend to ask every single one of them about this. I see gyn onc next month and will also make sure he's aware of it. Pretty sure he'll just brush me off from his end, but I can't let go of the fact that there's something wierd going on with me.

Thanks for any thoughts.

Suzanne

Tethys41's picture
Tethys41
Posts: 1057
Joined: Sep 2010

Suzanne,
I'm no expert, and I can't answer all of your questions. But my overall assessment of your situation it this. Chemotherapy and radiation compromises your immune system. Your immune sytem is integral to keeping cancer from proliferating in your body. Since you already had a cancer diagnosis, it is clear the "terraine" in your body is primed for allowing cancer to develop. Therefore, you need to take measures, especially after cancer treatment, to get your body back into defense mode. I don't know if you have done any integrative therapies, but it would be worth your time to look into things you can do to support your body right now. I'm 19 months out from chemo for ovarian cancer, and I'm still trying to get my body back on track. The book "Anti-Cacner" has a lot of information about diet, supplements,and stress management that can help get your body back in shape. Also, for future monitoring of your breast, you might look into thermography or thermal imaging. It is able to identify breast cancer that is forming prior to the actual development of a tumor. Hope this helps and I hope the lump turns out to be nothing serious.

california_artist's picture
california_artist
Posts: 860
Joined: Jan 2009

Hey, don't they have cameras a person can buy that show a heat signature? You know what I mean? It's been impossible for me to get the thermal imaging. What the heck are those things called. If you can help me out, I think I'll go get me one and get mostly naked in the bathroom and see if anything looks "hotter" than it should be. Why should an insurance company have the right to deny us diagnostic tests that could point us in the right direction for the correct treatment. I think we could all use a microscope, maybe more cooperation amongst ourselves is what's needed.

JoAnnDK
Posts: 276
Joined: Jun 2011

Tethy, I had no idea that thermography still existed. I used to ave one of them done every year in the early 70s.

In 1971, my mother, who was 44 and worked in a hospital, was asked to volunteer to be tested by a new machine called a mammography machine that was supposed to detect breast tumors. Well, the machine found that she had breast cancer and she then had a huge mastectomy and months of therapy....but no chemo or radiation for the next 12 years. She lived another 14 years. The last two years, when the cancer invaded her lungs, she did have chemo and radiation.

In the meantime, until mammography machines were in common use and approved for younger women. I continued to have thermograms.

What are they used for today?

JOANN

california_artist's picture
california_artist
Posts: 860
Joined: Jan 2009

apt reply.

I've often thought of the dismissive way we are treated when we worry, and we worry because quite often we have that gut feeling that tells us something is amiss.

Doctors feel it's fine to pat us on the head or knee or wherever and say insulting there there's don't worry. I couldn't really think of what to do about this, but I think I may have something. People continue to do what they can get away with doing. If doctors treat us like we're irrational little girls and we let them, without any fight back, then that is what they have learned works out just fine for them and should they be wrong, well, it doesn't effect their quality or length of life or anything in their lives. Sure some doctors cry when you are in trouble, I haven't met them, but I'm sure they are out there.

So, While it is nice to write to us, and we genuinely care and will do what we can to help, my suggestion is to write up what has happened to you thus far. What symptoms, you presented with, what tests, what scans, and the fact that you have had few if any scans even with a cancer diagnosis is something I am hoping I am misunderstanding, then take all of this and send it certified mail to all the people in charge of the hospital, and to the people who send you the how do you think you are being treated questionnaire. Do not suffer your ill under cared for treatment. Complain loudly and clearly, send one to each of the doctors that has treated you thus far. To the medical board. Let them know that head patting do noting reassurance will be brought to the attention of the people who need to know.

More of us need to do this. I think the next time some doctor pats me on the knee and tells me there's nothing to worry about, I'm going to reply, we'll see what the medical board thinks about that. I'll get back to you with their interpretation of my symptoms. I went for two years feeling in my gut that I had cancer and no one would take me seriously, I was limited in my options, so it's not like I didn't try. I finally got attention when I went to a free clinic where caring doctors immediately took me seriously.

Hope this helped in some fashion. I really hope that the lump is nothing. I had a huge lump one time that was really big and in pressing on it to see if felt, sharply hard or spongey, it had grown very fast, I pressed so hard that i popped it. Boy did that ever hurt. Whatever was in there was very hot and stung like a son-of-a-gun. Self treatmen 101. Don't really recommend that method. Coffee can make those instantaneous large lumps appear.

upsofloating's picture
upsofloating
Posts: 473
Joined: Dec 2009

Suzanne, I am so sorry you have this worry! A year or so after my breast cancer treatment I had a small nodule in my opposite breast and a stereotactic breast biospy was performed since the possibility of a second cancer developing was of concern as I was considered in the high risk group. It did turn out to be nothing. (Although I later developed a local recurrence which was completely overlooked by all doctors involved!) A number of women have dense breast tissue which can make it harder to see detail on mammograms - has this ever been noted for you? If it were me, I would want the biopsy rather than just depending on imaging studies. Although, with a specific area of concern the studies can focus directly on this issue rather than the broad 'screening' views that are routinely done and can provide much better information.
Will think 'benign' thoughts for you!
Annie

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2334
Joined: Jun 2010

I don't at all feel like I've been undertreated or received suboptimal care. My treatments and follow-ups have been consistent with NCCN guidelines and are the same as other women with the same dx. It's just that I had 2 primary cancers (breast and endometrial) at the same time and now maybe breast cancer again in the other breast. The feedback I've had from the various oncs is it's not unusual for a woman to have both cancers over the course of her lifetime, and I just happened to have them at the same time. How special.

So I'm fine with my past treatments and followup for last year's debacle. It's the future I'm concerned about. So far, I am absolutely not being ignored, but nothing has happened yet other than confirmation that there is a lump and referral for mammogram and ultrasound. This was just yesterday. I am not shy about questioning docs and beleive me, I will be less shy as I go through whatever the heck happens next. My primary care physician has my back. And I have absolutely no qualms about getting a second opinion if I don't like what's happening.

I have read the AntiCancer book and I've made significant lifestyle changes. I'm far from perfect, tho, and I don't see myself ever being rigid with diet. I will look more into supplements and alernative treatments.

Thanks for listening. I'll be scheduling a mammo appointment first thing Monday morning. I can't imagine I'll have to wait long, but I'll be pretty obnoxious if I can't have it done within the next week.

Suzanne

JoAnnDK
Posts: 276
Joined: Jun 2011

Please keep us posted, Suzanne....sounds like you have a good hold on what you need to have done.

JOANN

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2334
Joined: Jun 2010

I'm having an ultrasound and unilateral mammogram tomorrow at 7:45 a.m. Yawn! It's a 30 minute drive in non-commute time and I'm supposed to be there 20 minutes early. We'll see about that.. . Anyway, I've talked myself down from that ledge and have decided there's no way it could be cancer and I'll just relax and let them do their thing to ease their minds. I'll let you know when I know something. Thanks for the support.

Suzanne

Ro10's picture
Ro10
Posts: 1474
Joined: Jan 2009

Sorry you are having this added stress to your life. I hope the ultrasound show a benign area and you can put this out of you mind. Good luck. In peace and caring.

HellieC's picture
HellieC
Posts: 458
Joined: Nov 2010

This is one thing you could do without. I do hope it all goes well with the mammogram. I'm thinking of you.
By the way - I LOVE your new photo - you look great!
Kindest wishes
Helen

Songflower's picture
Songflower
Posts: 632
Joined: Apr 2009

I. had breast cancer 12 years ago and of course now have USPS. I definitely think you need a biopsy of this mass. Assert yourself and ask for a biopsy. They will give you one if you ask with your history. A fantastic web site for breast cancer is breastcancer.org. they have the best information.

I assume you have had a hysterectomy. Have you taken tamoxifen? That puts you at risk for uterine cancer. After you go to the website write down your questions and assume the role of a very informed woman. Bring someone with you that is also informed. Dress well. This sounds corny I know but sometimes it is like going for a job interview. Anything that helps give off an educated woman helps. It shouldn't be like this but it is.

As my Doctor has gotten to know me I've dropped the interview look but it helped at first.

I am sorry you have to go through all this.

Diane

bots's picture
bots
Posts: 53
Joined: Sep 2009

I wholeheartedly agree with the job interview look. I always take a book with me as well, not so much for the look of the thing but something to do while I am waiting. I don't think I have ever had it fail that the doctor has asked about or commented on the book.

Kaleena's picture
Kaleena
Posts: 1213
Joined: Nov 2009

Suzanne:

Hoping all went well for you today at your ultrasound and mammogram and you are back home relaxing. Love your photo!

My best to you!

Kathy

jazzy1's picture
jazzy1
Posts: 1387
Joined: Mar 2010

Good luck today....keeping you in my thoughts. Let us know how it all goes.

BTW I just love your new picture....you're beautiful and full of life!!!

Sending positive vibes your way.....
Jan

daisy366's picture
daisy366
Posts: 1493
Joined: Mar 2009

That's my understanding anyway. I guess it could be either cancer or not cancer at all. I agree with Diane and would request a biopsy.

My prayers are with you. Mary Ann

JoAnnDK
Posts: 276
Joined: Jun 2011

.....with all the advice here.

And having to get up and into your car at dark o'clock is the worst. GRRR

Let us know.

J

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2334
Joined: Jun 2010

Neither the ultrasound nor mammogram showed anything but normal breast tissue. The radiologist could feel what I felt, but she said she also felt similar tissue elsewhere in that breast (so did I) and thinks it may just be the way that breast is. She said an MRI was not clinically warranted and if anything changes, the next step would be a biopsy. From her standpoint, there is no radiographic evidence that is suspicious of cancer. But she did say that cancer doesn't just go away so this will be followed clinically by my pcp.

I have appointments with both my radiologic oncologist (tomorrow) and medical oncologist (next week). I'll also discuss this with them. I don't know what my primary care physician will have to say about all of this and what, if anything, she'll want to do about followups.

I am relieved and if I can leave my breast alone for a month, self exam should let me know if anything changes. I don't have an appointment with my breast surgeon until January (not that far away) and he's responsible for my breast exams. Actually, I'll be seeing a nurse practitioner in January - the surgeon got a new job.

Thanks for all your support and comments. And about the photo - that's my wig and my permanent makeup (brows and liner). Still not enough hair for prime time 13 months after chemo. I go back and forth between feeling sorry for myself and saying "gee, this is easy".

Suzanne

daisy366's picture
daisy366
Posts: 1493
Joined: Mar 2009

Glad it is nothing. Enjoy your time between appointments. Nice looking wig - it will keep you warm this winter anyway!!

Mary Ann

Ro10's picture
Ro10
Posts: 1474
Joined: Jan 2009

So glad it turned out to be "Nothin". That is the best news. So glad you feel relieved. Enjoy your break until January. I too think you look wonderful with your wig and permanent make-up. Keep that beautiful smile. In peace and caring.

upsofloating's picture
upsofloating
Posts: 473
Joined: Dec 2009

Glad that was resolved! Love the new pic - you look quite stylish ... and vibrant!

carolenk's picture
carolenk
Posts: 909
Joined: Feb 2011

Suzanne

I want to share my own personal experience with you so you have something else to think about. Let me start my saying, I am a somewhat unconventional and have been an ovarian cancer survivor for a little over a year. I'm not in remission or chemo treatment at this time rather doing a lot of unconventional stuff in an attempt to extend my life. So far, I'm still alive

About two weeks ago, I felt lumps in both breasts (on the outer sides of each breast)--both were a little tender, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and not very well defined. According to Dr. David Brownstein, breast tissue requires iodine to be healthy (http://www.iodine4health.com/body/hormones/brownstein_hormones.htm). I have a history of having an iodine deficiency goiter in the past so I thought I would try using iodine on the lumps.

I painted both breasts with an iodine solution (Lugol's solution) in the areas where the lumps were once/day for a couple of days. If the lumps didn't go away, I was going to go have some testing done. In two days, the breast lumps & tenderness were gone. They are still gone as I write this.

I don't know why I got breast lumps instead of another goiter, but that's my story.

JoAnnDK
Posts: 276
Joined: Jun 2011

I had a similar experience - lumps on both breasts - same place on each one. Turned out they were from the wires on my bra. DUH!!!

HellieC's picture
HellieC
Posts: 458
Joined: Nov 2010

When I posted to say how good your new pic looked, I didn't realise it was a wig! But wig or not - you look great. I can understand how frustrated you must feel that your hair isn't "playing ball" but please have no worries about how you look. You look MARVELOUS!
Kindest wishes
Helen

JoAnnDK
Posts: 276
Joined: Jun 2011

I agree with the comments about how great you look, Suzanne. And could you tell me the brand and style of your wig/!?!?!? Looks wonderful. And a smiling face helps too!

Thanks
JOANN

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2334
Joined: Jun 2010

It's synthetic and comes in a lot of colors. Everyone can have one!
Suzanne

Lois B.
Posts: 10
Joined: Sep 2011

Good evening,

I hope this doesn't come off too negative. My experience in 1993 left me unwilling to leave a lump in my breast.

I had breast cancer in 1993. I felt my own lump, got a mammo which was non-diagnostic, then had an ultrasound which was, as the radiologist put it, "suspicious. Made an appointment to have the lump taken out, even though the surgeon felt it was benign and we could watch and wait. What a surprise when he phoned me to say I had breast cancer after the excision of the lump.

At that time, I had a cousin in her mid 30's that had let her doctors tell her the thickening in her breast was benign and nothing to worry about. When she was finally diagnosed with breast cancer, she was stage 4 and lived another five years with treatment.

It was because of her I insisted that the lump be removed.

I'm a radical person, so I opted to have radical surgery. I then underwent, my choice, of chemo treatments and had no recurrence of breast cancer.

I am now NED UPSC since 2008. Talk about a double whammy. Thank the dear Lord that my primary care doctor listened to my right-side ache. She ordered a CT scan, transvaginal ultrasound and off I went for a hysteroscopy. The rest is history - chemo and brachytherapy.

You know yourself, you know your breasts better than anyone else.

I know you want to believe your doctors and most likely they are right to watch and wait.
But go with whatever your gut instinct is.

I'd like to leave you with something upbeat - yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, enjoy today - it is the "present".

Lois

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2334
Joined: Jun 2010

Rest assured, this will not go ignored. Radiologist said from a radiologic standpoint, there was nothing more for her to do. MRI is not clinically warranted and the breast should be watched clinically. She said the next step, should there be one, would be biopsy. She said it wouldn't be done by her because (again) there was nothing radiologically visible. She said a pathologist would do it! Really? That would be different for me.

Then my radiation oncologist and her resident examined me the next day. This was my routine followup exam. Boy Howdy did they ever examine me! She said her feeling was what we were all feeling is normal breast tissue, but of course keep an eye on it.

My pcp contacted me the end of last week and said she wants to see me for follow-up within a month. I plan on arriving with a long list of questions. In the meantime, I'll continue to do my research. It's good that someone else is going to recheck the boob because I can't leave it alone and probably wouldn't notice any change if there was one! What I feel is very tiny and is not what I would expect breast cancer to feel like (like I'd know!), but the docs took me seriously. There is actually another one in the same breast. Normal breast tissue? I don't think so, but not cancer is so ok with me and I guess a biopsy (or lumpectomy) is the only was to know for sure.

Suzanne

Lois B.
Posts: 10
Joined: Sep 2011

Suzanne,

You sound like a smart and savvy woman. I'm sure you'll stay on top of this as will your doctors.

Questions are good - and I know that not every lump in a breast is an indication of breast cancer. I had fibrocystic breasts and was very familiar with what felt normal to me. I'm sure your doctors are knowledgeable about what they are feeling since they examine lots of women.

You are right when you say the only way to know for sure is a biopsy. I know that they do needle biopsies - stereotactic - although there might be other studies that they do today, since I've no recent information nor am I any expert on this topic.

I'll keep you in my prayers for good health.

Lois

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