Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Adventures in Breast Health Part 2: The Left Jab

The preparation info sheet for my scheduled breast biopsy recommended that I "wear a snug fitting bra, preferably a sports bra" the day of the procedure. As I mentioned in Part 1, it's difficult to find a bra in my size at all, let alone a sports bra. A friend recently clued me in to Nordstrom's lingerie department... I was gobsmacked! They actually carry (and keep in stock!) lots of small band/large cup sizes! It was almost like Nirvana for a petite but overly-endowed girl like me. So off to Nordstrom I went, in search of a 34DDD sports bra to wear to my biopsy appointment. I was pretty sure I'd find one there, though I held out no hope of finding one without an underwire. (Do they even make them without one at that cup size?)

A very helpful sales associate assisted me in locating the sports bras in my size, and also pointed me in the direction of a sales rack with other bras in my size. Woot woot! Then I went to try some on (I've learned to NEVER buy a bra without trying it on). Now, my boobs really don't seem any bigger to me, so maybe companies are just making their bra sizes run small these days, because my helpful sales associate took one look at one of the 34DDD bras I tried and suggested that I was probably a 34G (that's 4 Ds). WTF???? Seriously??? As if it isn't freakin' hard enough already to find a dang bra!!! Oh joy. Anyway, thankfully Nordstrom has even my new voluminous size IN STOCK!! Not a lot of variety, but enough, and some pretty ones too! I left with a new sports bra (yes, with underwires) and two other bras, just cuz they were pretty and on sale. But here's the deal... even on sale, they weren't cheap by any means. My heart goes out to all ladies who suffer from the small band/big cup size syndrome. If your budget is tight, how the heck can you afford a 34G bra, on the rare occasions that you can find one in stock at a place like Norsdstom? It was a stretch for me to squeeze it into the budget. And really, is it that small of a niche market that more companies wouldn't make and/or carry them? Really?

So, on to the biopsy. I arrived at the hospital's breast center at 8:00 am for my 8:30 vacuum assisted needle biopsy appointment as requested. I was sent down to the biopsy scheduler's office to sign some papers, then back to the breast center waiting room. The ultrasound tech called for me at about 8:40 or so, and led me over to the procedure room. She had me swap my bra and shirt for a hospital gown, and explained everything they were going to do. I was told to lie face-up on the gurney (with a nice comfy pillow), and she confirmed via sonogram the location of the area they wanted to biopsy. It was just about center, above the nipple of my left breast, exactly where it was on the previous sonogram. (She also took a quick look at my lymph nodes and said they looked normal, though she's not really supposed to say anything about what she sees.) She marked the area with a pen. So far, so good.

Then the physician's assistant (PA) who would be performing the biopsy came in. She explained everything to me again, and answered any questions I had. Then we got started. First, she confirmed which breast (left) and wrote "yes" on it, in case any of the three of us in the room forgot at some point. (It's funny, but they have to do that just to be safe.) Then she cleaned the area with some cold stuff. At this point, the tech zeroed in with the sonogram to guide the PA to the area in question. The PA started with several injections of a local anesthetic (xylocaine, I think). She said to let her know if I felt anything after the first couple tiny pinpricks. I did not. I'm guessing she made the small incision next (I didn't feel anything), and then inserted the bigger biopsy needle. I was watching the needle come in on the sonogram screen, but seriously did not feel a thing! When the needle tip was in the area they wanted to sample, the PA said "you'll hear a click in a second..." And then I heard a loud click, kind of like a spring release or something. I didn't feel anything except maybe the very slightest tiniest bit of pressure... barely noticeable at all. The PA confirmed that the click was a tissue sample being taken. They took several samples, maybe five or six or seven, all guided by the sonogram. Finally, a tiny surgical clip was placed in the area they tested, as a marker for future reference. It's the size of a sesame seed and made of titanium. With the marker in place, the PA removed the needle and held gauze on the incision to stop the very little bleeding there, while the tech labeled the sample container for the lab. Then they put some special surgical tapes over the incision, and then taped a small piece of gauze over that. I was only in the procedure room for a total of about 20 minutes, beginning to end! Quick and virtually pain-free!

(Not to tell other people's stories, but the tech had been through a fine needle aspiration like the one I had done last year, and the PA had the same procedure she just performed on me a couple years ago... she's now a two-year breast cancer survivor! It's comforting to know that they've been through it and know what it's like to be the patient. They also know first-hand how important it is to have the tests done correctly!)

One final step left, and that was to have a mammogram of my left breast to make sure the surgical clip was in the right spot and showing up as it should. And no, they don't squash your boob as tightly for that as with a normal mammo. They just need to make sure the marker shows up. After a few minutes of waiting in the "inner" waiting room of the breast imaging center, the mammography tech said everything was in place and I was free to go. Less than two hours for the entire visit, beginning to end, and absolutely no pain.

Well, the procedure itself was painless. I DID have just a little bit of discomfort yesterday evening, but very minimal. I wouldn't even call it pain, really. A couple Tylenol knocked it right out. I HAVE felt a very few twinges of minor pain for a second or two every now and then, but not many. I also have a couple cool little round gel ice packs that I can insert into my bra if I start feeling any discomfort. So yeah, I'd still stay the whole thing has been almost completely pain-free.

I gotta say, that breast center is amazing. Every person I've come in contact with there has been so pleasant and helpful. I even got a call from the "nurse navigator" this morning, who was just checking in to see if everything was okay. LOVE them!!  I'm glad I have access to such a great breast center. They seem to be up-to-date with current medical advances and guidelines. The needle biopsy I underwent was SO much less invasive than an open biopsy. Ask your doctor if it's an option for you if you ever need a biopsy. In most cases, it should be the preferred method.

I should get the result when I see my wonderful breast specialist later this week. I'm expecting the results to be negative... 80% of biopsies are. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

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