This post is for anyone who might be curious as to what a patient goes through for a biopsy of a tumor on the breast.
I arrived at the Women’s Center for Radiology at 8:15am. The appointment was for 8:30. I checked in, sat down, and was not called until 9:00. Well, at least I got all of my daily challenge games on my phone done during the forty-five minute wait. Distractions help.
This time, the assigned nurse was a pleasant woman. She handed me the appropriate apparel to change into and left the room. After changing, I sat in the chair and waited. And waited. And waited. Bored, I checked out the equipment. There was the table for me to lie on, naturally, but the screen and the equipment tray held my interest. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what input the screen was waiting on. I moved to the tray. Not being in the medical field, each of the shiny, sharp objects eluded me there, too. So, for continued distraction, I gave them names. There was the curvy metal stick. The straight metal stick. The prong thingy. Just as I was tempted to pick up one of the tools for closer examination, the door opened. Dammit. That thing will go unnamed.
The paper covering the cushion on the table crinkled loudly as I got on. That always makes me wonder if the noise is due to how big I am. Does everyone wonder the same? Or does anyone? Yeah, I was deep in my own head at this point.
While reviewing something on the screen, the nurse said, “Uh-oh.”
Damn. That is one expression you do not want to hear a medical professional say.
“Oh, sorry. For some reason your left is noted, but the scan shows it’s the right. I’ll be back.”
With that she took a clipboard and out the door she bolted.
Huh. That can’t be good. At least she checked before the procedure began. Perhaps I should have been more upset, but instead gratitude for the woman checking was how I felt. Besides, someone would have noticed if there was nothing to do a biopsy on. Right?
Lying on the table, I wasn’t sure if I could get up, or stay put. Deciding to remain where I was, I took the opportunity to self-exam the left breast, and then the right. Nope. Still couldn’t tell there was anything amiss. Good thing they have machines for this.
When the nurse returned she apologized and explained the original mark on the forms had been checked wrong. It was the left side of the right breast, not the left breast. Huh. Well, that moves it from an out of the way hiding spot, to the cleavage. Dammit. I like my cleavage. The actual biopsy shouldn’t leave a mark. But if the damn thing is malignant, that’ll leave a visible scar.
As if that’s at the top of my worry list.
While cleaning the area, the nurse took the time to explain to me everything that was about to happen. First, ice the spot. Then, a shot to numb the area. Then, a deeper shot to numb the area under the skin. Then, the biopsy consists of yet another needle-type apparatus that would retrieve the tissue sample.
Well, that clears things up. Thanks. Please know that I only thought those words. Concern for my sarcastic side coming out kept me from speaking aloud. But, I am an organizer, and I like to know what’s on the agenda, so her description did give a measure of comfort. Had I spoken, however, she would have come to a different conclusion.
The same doctor who was on staff for the sonogram came in and repeated everything the nurse said. Again, concern for my sarcastic side kept my mouth shut. Not everyone understands my humor. Smile and nod, just smile and nod.
Ice held against my breast for a minute or two did lessen the sting of the first shot. That, in turn, lessened the pain of what was a larger needle for the second. The three of us waited for the numbing to take effect while chatting about the recent hurricane, as if I weren’t laying on a table with my shirt open to two strangers.
Needles are not unfamiliar to me. At one point in my life, every six months, I’d had cortisone shots in my wrists to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Now that HURT. One time I actually screamed. You might call it a short burst of uncontrolled expression of discomfort. But yeah, I screamed. With that as a benchmark, I figured this couldn’t be so bad.
And it wasn’t.
Even with my (shudder) needle experiences, at the moment of actual penetration, I looked away. There were numerous ways to avoid direct eye contact with a sharp object puncturing through my skin. In this case, the screen on which the needle was being recorded caught my eye. For some reason I found that fascinating. Perhaps because the actual feel of the needle was absent, or perhaps because I wondered at the technology. Either way, it was like watching a TV show about someone else having this procedure.
On the screen, the needle remained in place as a chamber slipped over the barb. The chamber pulled back as the doctor told me that was the first tissue sample. Three or four more times the chamber slipped into view, and then retreated. It put me in mind of the pump action of a shotgun. I’ve got to say how glad I am to be living in an era that allowed me to disconnect with the reality of having tissue pulled from inside my body, and just watch the screen as it happened. Surreal.
With all complete, the doctor reasserted her belief that this mass is benign, and this I hold onto that belief with both hands (folded in prayer).
I’m told the results can take up to seven days, but will probably be done in four. Now, I just have to find something to keep me occupied for the next week.
I wonder what the grandkids are up to.
JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.