Diagnosis: Misunderstanding

Laura Zigman Health Guide November 02, 2007
  • With Breast Cancer Comics by Dash Shaw

     

    A few days before I turned 44, I was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer. After a lifetime of mammograms, I had recently been "pro-active" (pushy) about getting a more definitive test since I was convinced it was only a matter of time until I got breast cancer just like my mother.

     

    I was also convinced that mammograms weren't all they were cracked up to be since every time I heard about someone getting diagnosed with breast cancer they had just had a clean mammogram.

     

    Two days after a breast MRI that my doctor had grudgingly ordered, I was asked to come back for an ultrasound. Despite my usual negativity, I didn't think much of this since when I asked if coming back for a follow-up ultrasound was normal the person on the phone said that lots of people get called back for an ultrasound. So you can imagine my surprise when I showed up for my seemingly "routine" ultrasound and was met by a radiologist pointing at something on my films: there was something in the left breast and though she didn't think it looked like cancer, she wanted to be certain.

     

    "I'm obsessive," the radiologist said, a trait I figured was a huge asset in her particular line of work.

     

     

    Before I knew it, right then and there, I had a needle biopsy (that was surprisingly almost completely painless).

     

    A few days later, the radiologist called and said that the results were in: I had what's called Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, also known as DCIS, an early type of cancer that starts in the milk ducts. It was Stage 0, she said, which meant that though the cancer was there, it hadn't gone anywhere.

     

    Yet.

     

    Strangely, though, at some point during her explanation of the diagnosis, I could have sworn I heard the radiologist say: "Don't let the word carcinoma fool you. It's a type of pre-cancer condition routinely treated by lumpectomy and radiation."

     

     

    Which was a huge relief: pre-cancer isn't cancer! I thought happily, which made calling everyone I knew who was waiting to hear about my test results a whole lot easier.

     

    If only I hadn't misunderstood.

     

    Next: Laura Meets Her Breast Surgeon and Becomes a Bobble-Head Toy