Cancer Warrior Anita
We have kept this very private, awaiting prognosis and diagnoses
In early March 2022 Anita found two lumps on her right breast. We are very proactive about lumps, bumps and rashes so Anita called her doctor. The GP examined Anita the next day and was concerned, the doctor sent a referral to the Breast Check Clinic immediately with an expectation of a specialist to examine Anita within a week.
I do not want to seem over critical of the health service but the length of time it took to organise scans etc took months, actually 6 months to be precise. It’s too long and in the event of lumps been cancerous it could mean that the cancer cells have the ability to progress to a dangerous stage or worse. Added to that the mental strain on the person is substantial and unnecessary. We made multiple calls to the doctor, clinics and even Anita’s oncologist (This is a gynaecology oncologist) but he couldn’t get the breast clinic to respond faster. We finally got an appointment for late July.
Anita went into the breast clinic for a pre assessment with the clinical team. The doctor examined Anita and decided to move it up to a Professor. The Professor was concerned and scheduled a mammogram.
September 1st 2022
We live in Kerry about an hour from the hospital. Anita decided to go to the mammogram alone as visitation is still restricted. I felt that this was okay as it appeared to be just a mammogram…
“Mammography is the process of using low-energy X-rays to examine the human breast for diagnosis and screening. The goal of mammography is the early detection of breast cancer, typically through detection of characteristic masses or microcalcifications”. Wikipedia
How wrong can we be. Always Expect the unexpected and unfortunately we are guilty of not expecting the unexpected.
Anita arrived at the clinic at 5pm for the appointment. An oncologist examined her and the radiologist preformed the mammogram. She then had an ultrasound which was followed by an unexpected biopsy.
What is Stereotactic (Mammographically Guided) Breast Biopsy?
Physical, mammography, and other exams often detect lumps or abnormalities in the breast. However, these tests cannot always tell whether a growth is benign or cancerous.
Doctors use breast biopsy to remove a small amount of tissue from a suspicious area for lab analysis. The doctor may perform a biopsy surgically. More commonly, a radiologist will use a less invasive procedure that involves a hollow needle and image-guidance. Image-guided needle biopsy does not remove the entire lesion. Instead, it obtains a small sample of the abnormality for further analysis.
Image-guided biopsy uses ultrasound, MRI, or mammography imaging guidance to take samples of an abnormality.
The procedure is not preformed under full anaesthetic , The area is frozen with light anaesthetic. The procedure states with a number of ultrasounds and once the suspect lump is identified (marked by the oncologist) the radiotherapist will then make a small (about an inch) surgical cut directly aligned to the suspected lump. A breast biopsy needle is then inserted to take a sample of the lumps. This is called a core needle biopsy (CNP) the needles are in various sizes and in Anita’s case the needle was a substantial size. The took 3 or 4 main samples. It was an uncomfortable procedure and as Anita had travelled alone for what was only to be a scan she had to drive home. She did go and have a coffee and something to eat but it was still an hours drive back. I can assure you this will not happen again. I was taken back by this as there was no way in hell would we have let her drive in alone let alone drive home.
The biopsy area was sealed by temporary surgical stitches and covered by a large comfort plaster.
September 9th 2022
We got the results.. it was clear. The results were delivered by a telephone call and I could see the relief on Anita’s face. Good news but followed by concerning news. The mammogram results showed another suspicious lump in the left breast, this was a red flag from the Professor and he instructed another biopsy to the left breast. Relief followed by further concern.
That Thursday Anita got a call that she had an appointment to meet the Professor the next Day, once bitten twice shy, this time I drove her in as we had decided that any further appoints or scans would not be approached alone, expect the unexpected.
So I drove Anita in for a 9am appointment as the radiologist was to finish work at 11:30am. Here is the real part where I don’t want to appear over critical of the health service. The Professor examined Anita and preformed an ultrasound to identify the location of the lump, this lump was deeper than the other side. He marked the area and sent Anita to radiology. The radiology receptionist told Anita that the procedure could not be preformed as they were too busy (there were only 4 people waiting) Anita told her that the Professor had marked the area, that we had travelled from Kerry and that she had an appointment. But it fell on deaf ears and Anita was told to return the following Friday. As I was awaiting for Anita in the parking area (still no accompanying in operation at the hospital) I was surprised to see her come out some quick. And we headed home, that was Friday 16th of Sept.
We got home and sat down discussing everything that happened, during our chat Anita got a call from the hospital, it was a senior doctor. “Anita I have to apologise for what happened today, it was totally wrong. I had come out to call you in for the procedure only to be told you were sent home, this procedure was urgent and other people should have been sent home not you or at least they should have consulted me. I have rescheduled an appointment for you on Monday at 11am.” We were not impressed – our concern over this lump had now increased as we felt it was more serious that what we had been initially informed.
Monday 19th of September
We again travelled to Cork, we had a sleepless night so we were both tired. Arriving early Anita again went in alone and I waited in the car park. Anita had remarked the area that the Professor had marked on Friday. A radiologist called Anita in, he preformed the ultrasound and told Anita that it was a deep breast cyst. He decided that a biopsy was not necessary and sent he away. Anita came down to the car quiet happy that this had happened however I was not. I have never experienced a situation where a Professor’s decision had been countered by a radiologist, it felt wrong. We could contact the professor but he was not in the clinic and we went home.
That afternoon the Professor called Anita himself. He was fuming, he apologised and told Anita that this entire situation was disgraceful. He explained that he still wanted a biopsy even though the likelihood was that it might be nothing he wanted to be 100% sure. Another appointment was made for Wednesday 21st. The Professor gave Anita the name of the radiologist to see and it was the same doctor that had called last Friday.
Wednesday 21st of September
This time I decided that irrespective about the “not accompanied” policy I went in with Anita. We went to reception and the receptionist words were “back again” with a smile… We were sent to waiting room. An unexpected and very sudden realisation hit me, we were sitting in the same waiting room, the same seats that I had my Fine Needle Aspiration procedure done in 2015. It caught me off guard, the memories flooded back. That procedure back in 2015 had shown that my cancer cells were active, I was told on the spot back then and the doctor doing the procedure had confirmed that the prognosis was bad. It is strange how these things can suddenly return to our minds. That day Anita had been emotional, and when I pointed it out to Anita she also remembered that particular day. Her face drained.
We were waiting about 15 minutes and the Doctor that the professor had told Anita to see called her in. The lump that needed the biopsy was deep but the procedure went faster as they only required one sample. The procedure itself was the same but more painful due to the location. After the procedure the doctor herself apologised for everything that had happened. I had stayed in the waiting room. I had not said a word to any of the staff, I did not need to. However if there had been any further issues I would have without doubt have created a storm.
September 29th 2022.
Anita got a call from the hospital. The biopsy was clear. They will continue to monitor this over the coming years but its clear.
Anita is on the public health system in Ireland called the HSE. Due to long term medical history getting private health care would be impossible as they would not cover her for many procedures. Although with the current issues in the medical sector it makes little difference any more. As a Cancer victim following VIN Cancer in 2020 I am shocked that they took so long to get not only the scans but the biopsies done. Its not about any special treatment here its about the persons medical history. Anyone with any form of a cancer history should be prioritised, especially within the 5 year recognised remission period. Cancer can spread, it can be fast or slow. Slow cancer can take time to detect and extra care must be done to insure that it is caught in time.
The big plus is that Anita has been given the all clear. Massive weight off our shoulders.
Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Cervical cancer screening – Smear Test looks to see if you have any of the high-risk types of human papillomavirus (hrHPV) that cause cervical cancer. If hrHPV is found, your same test sample will be checked to see if you have any abnormal (pre-cancerous) cells in your cervix
These two procedures are vital and should be done on a regular bases. Along with
Blood Test Screening This is a test to check the types and numbers of cells in your blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This can help give an indication of your general health, as well as provide important clues about certain health problems you may have
Take it from two people that have lengthy experience with Cancer. Prevention is better than cure and early detection is vital.
Anita is registered with the Breast Check Ireland www.breastcheck.ie