Breast cancer

How I found out

It was at my executive check up last Feb 9, during the breast ultrasound, the doctor said I needed a biopsy. Now, I have been monitoring my breasts for over 10 years now (it was always “probably benign findings “) and this is the first time I hear “biopsy”. Apparently , the shape of the cyst was irregular (not round and smooth) and seems to have spread to surrounding cells (spiculations). Results corresponded with mammogram results and indicated “high suspicion for malignancy – Birads 4c) .

Needless to say, I became worried. But what can you do but go through the motions , take the next step — saw a surgeon the next day, scheduled the biopsy , waited anxiously for the results , prayed to God, then the bad news – ” invasive ductal CA” . I was surprisingly calm, asked questions that needed to be asked, appeared strong in front of my husband ( who was probably also trying to be strong in front of me) , got my cardio clearance (despite getting anxiety attacks at night with bp shooting up to 170), saw the plastic surgeon, and awaited my surgery schedule.

I had decided on having a mastectomy with reconstruction instead of lumpectomy with radiation. First, I didn’t like the sound of radiation (though still a chance it might be required ) . Even if the cyst was small (almost 1cm) , I felt safer with mastectomy ( though doc says chances of recurrence only slightly lower ; still it’s lower ) . Also, I saw the photos of other patients and reconstructed breast looked the same except for a scar underneath . The doc said the nipple could be preserved and this lifted my spirits as I was expecting to be nipple-less.

The reconstruction is of course not covered by my health card, and costs around p150k (plastic surgeons fees, aneasteologists fees and the silicon implant itself ). Ironically , after seeing both the surgeon and plastic surgeon, I felt some kind of relief , as it wasn’t as bad as I expected. First, survival rates are “very high” as it is still small and detected early . Second , my breast would still look almost the same except for the scar. Third, I was assured that implants are very safe now, specifically the brand the doc was using – Mentor – which had lifetime warranty and is the only brand certified in the Philippines. Less than 1pct chance of problems and in such case the company will shoulder all expenses to fix.

I actually had a worse experience during my anxiety attack when I thought I’d die of a heart attack instead.

And so … that’s how it began.