It’s that time again. Time for the squish-fest we women not-so-lovingly call a “mammogram.” I’m all set for an encore of the advanced mammo called breast tomosynthesis, “an additional screening tool in the fight against breast cancer.” I blogged about this technology in October last year after I’d undergone the three-dimensional mammogram that’s now FDA-approved.
Traditional mammograms are two-dimensional images. Overlapping tissue in them makes it tough to recognize and identify tiny “spots,” microcalcifications, that can be precursors of early cancer. This technology is ideal for women with dense breasts.
The experts at Are You Dense explain that “dense breast tissue is comprised of less fat and more connective tissue which appears white on a mammogram. Cancer also appears white on a mammogram, thus tumors are often hidden behind the dense tissue. As a woman ages, her breasts usually become more fatty. “
I opt for this newer mammogram—not available everywhere yet—because it provides additional information. Radiologists examine breast tissue one layer or slice at a time, but the entire image is far from “flat.”
Ann Brenoff’s current HuffPost blog is a testimony to the script we write after receiving a false positive report on our mammogram. As Brenoff so accurately puts it, “more than half of cancer-free women who are screened annually over the course of a decade will have what is known as a false positive on a mammogram.”
If you’ve gotten a dreaded call-back—and I don’t mean for an audition—you know the terror that request to return can strike in your heart. In my case, it was 2007 and I was spending the summer in Charlotte to be close to my mom. I underwent a regular mammogram and was told there was a “spot” that needed closer examination—via a breast ultrasound.
I wrote that script, wondering who’d manage Mom’s health issues if I was gone, who’d love my beautiful pets, and what my legacy might be—would anyone care? My worries weren’t too different from anyone else’s, who might also be lamenting the failure to complete tasks on a bucket list.
The ultrasound was clear, soon so was my head, and I’m still here. Because my breasts are dense—and like me—sometimes hard to read, my regular breast diagnostic routine includes tomosynthesis now and an ultrasound for extra extra. One can’t be too careful with life.
Ask your healthcare provider if this option is available to you.