Wednesday, October 3, 2012

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month I’d like to tell you my breast story.

Thankfully, I finally got a clean bill of health from the Cedars Sinai Medical Breast Center radiologist yesterday after almost three years of mammograms, ultrasounds, and breast tests. This regime started because of 2009 mammogram results at Torrance Memorial Breast Diagnostic Center and their assessment that I needed a needle biopsy on two points on my left breast.

The Torrance Memorial finding of two three to four milligram nodules in the central to lateral left breast said that simultaneous palpation and scanning revealed no significant abnormality in the left axilla. The assessment was termed suspicious and given a breast imaging reporting and data system category of Bi-Rad 4a, for a low suspicion of breast malignancy. The chance of finding real cancer at this level is twenty to forty percent.

I was wary from the start. I didn’t know this new doctor at Torrance who evaluated my findings and suggested the biopsy. I had asked to see the head of the department – someone I’ve known for years – and since she was unavailable, I decided to get a second opinion. Wouldn’t you if you were faced with this kind of diagnosis? My gynecologist referred me to Dr. Scott Karlan at the Cedars Breast Center.

Dr. Karlan’s reaction at the start was laughter. He looked my new mammogram results, he did an ultrasound right in his examining room, and he performed a breast exam. He found nothing suspicious. He said these spots were so small that it would take a lot of poking around with a needle to even find them. 

However, that did not stop the radiologist. He required repeat diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds first every three months and then every six months until he said they could stop. And every time until yesterday he checked off the statement that says:

Short Term follow-up: Your examination showed an area that we believe is most likely normal. We would like you to come back in (three or) six months to have a follow-up mammogram/ultrasound to confirm that the area has not changed.

It took from my first visit to the Cedars Breast Center on January 15, 2010 until yesterday, October 2, 2012 to get this diagnosis:

Benign: There was no evidence of cancer.

However, this benign diagnosis in no way means I should stop getting regular yearly mammogram screenings and breast exams. Please visit for more information about breast cancer and where to find services. Being aware is half the battle.

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