Case Example: Self-Examination Saved Her
As follow-up to my last post regarding breast self-examination, I offer a real case example:
A 39-year-old mom with no family history of breast cancer felt a lump in her right breast when she was doing a self-examination. Her mammogram pictures show dense breast tissue. A triangular-shaped sticker (you can see the triangle on the RMLO and RCC films) has been put on the lump. At that site on the mammogram, there is an irregular mass best seen on the magnified view RMML (yellow arrow) that demonstrates “spiculated margins”- a radiology term for badness. The mass is partially obscured by the surrounding normal, dense, white breast tissue. This makes it difficult to see on the routine RMLO and RCC views:
A sonogram was performed, which shows the mass (yellow arrow) measuring approximately 1cm:
The mass was biopsied with a needle and cancer was confirmed. A breast MRI was obtained prior to surgery, which also clearly shows the mass (yellow arrow), with no other suspicious findings in either breast:
This patient found her cancer when it was Stage I, with no spread to the lymph nodes under her arm or to any other organ in her body. She was able to choose breast-conserving surgery (a lumpectomy=a lump of tissue was removed) rather than a mastectomy (where the whole breast is removed). She then underwent radiation therapy, which made the breast red for awhile and made her a little tired, but without other side effects. She did not require chemotherapy. Her time away from her family was minimal, and she did not have to take a leave of absence from her job. Her long-term prognosis is excellent.
This young woman is very glad that she remembered to do her self-exam that month. If the cancer had been left to its own devices and given another year to grow and possibly spread (she wasn’t due for her baseline mammogram until the following year at age 40), this might have been a very different story.
Don’t be shy! Know your breasts. Really.