“No one wants to find out they have a life-threatening disease. But the simple fact is, breast cancer can hide from you, but you can’t hide from it. Thanks, Hologic and Women’s Life Imaging Center, for giving me peace of mind. Now I have a plan.”
For about 10 days, my peaceful world was off-kilter.
Lots of women are called back for a second mammogram. But when I was told I needed additional testing – a “diagnostic” mammogram – I was terrified.
You see, I had a 3D mammogram – also known as tomosynthesis or tomo, for short – and not by chance. I had heard about the new technology and decided to do a little research online.
I always thought that digital mammography was the be-all, end-all. So you can imagine my surprise when I learned that regular mammograms provide a flat two-dimensional image of the breast, but the breast has many layers, each at different heights. Those layers can overlap and cancers can be missed. Tomo, on the other hand, can see through the layers of breast tissue – like paging through a book.
I was sold. My grandmother died in her sixties from breast cancer, and I had a lump in my breast in my early 30s – scary, but it was a wake-up call to be an advocate for my own health by making sure I got regular mammograms every year.
Of course, I was hoping that my local healthcare center offered 3D mammography, but no luck. That’s when I went to hologic3d.com and found a location with the technology: Women’s Life Imaging Center in Somersworth, NH, just 45 minutes from my home.
Having the mammogram was slightly different – first 3D images were taken, then 2D. It wasn’t any more uncomfortable than the routine mammograms I’ve had since I was 35 – more than 20 at this point in my life – all of which had been normal!
The results were sent to my local doctor here in Kennebunk. About three days later, the doctor’s office called and left a message on my home phone. By the time I listened to the recording, it was early evening and the office had already closed. But I knew it had something to do with the mammogram.
That’s when my anxiety went through the roof. I had read that tomo takes multiple images over the breast and reconstructs the images into a three-dimensional rendering, so virtually nothing can hide.
That’s why 3D is so much more accurate than 2D.
That’s why fewer women are called back for a second look – and when women are called back after a 3D mammogram, there’s typically a real reason for concern. That’s why I was so scared.
I was able to get into see my local doctor the next day. She did a breast exam and fortunately, she didn’t feel any lumps. I also called the Women’s Life Imaging Center and scheduled my second appointment.
It was a dreary, rainy day about 10 days later when I returned to Women’s Life Imaging. Thankfully, my daughter came along … just in case. This time I had a diagnostic mammogram. As the technologist told me, she was taking magnified views of specific areas of concern, so that the radiologist could focus in on those areas. After the diagnostic mammogram, I had a breast ultrasound to determine the exact cause of a suspicious dark area in my left breast.
My tomo story has a great ending – at least for now. The area of concern in my left breast turned out to be a benign cyst. However, I found out that I have areas of calcification in my right breast, and will need mammograms every six months for two years. Apparently, if those calcifications start to cluster together in abnormal shapes, it can be a sign of breast cancer. Now I have a plan in place for monitoring changes in those calcifications over time. So if I do end up having breast cancer, it will be caught early, when it is nearly 100% curable – and when treatment is far less invasive.
I am sharing my tomo story for one simple reason – to help spread the word about 3D mammography.
I have learned the importance of being proactive; you cannot wait for breast cancer to find you. So ask your healthcare provider if they offer 3D tomo. If they don’t, find a center near you and get an appointment. I believe that every woman in this world deserves the same opportunity I had to get a 3D mammogram, close to home.