Updated: Jan 19
Doctors say you should be doing mammograms 10 years prior to your mother's diagnosis. My Mom was diagnosed at age 34 so I should be doing my mammograms at age 24. My family doctor, recommended that I do at-home screenings (palpating myself) as early as 19 and then consider doing my first mammogram at age 25. Remember mammograms give you a small amount of radiation, so for those who start young, you have to think about the risk to benefit ratio. The thought of thinking about these things at such a young age scared me a lot. Eventually, that fear led to pity and there was an ongoing thought of... why me?
I am currently 26, turning 27 in 3 days. My first mammogram was at age 25 where we had a minor scare of fibroadenomas in the breast. Definition? "Solid non-cancerous breast lumps, typically found in women between ages 15 to 25" - Mayo Clinic. Due to me being high risk, the doctors decided to biopsy it just to make sure. To put you up to speed, that biopsy came out negative, but oh boy, did that appointment bring back all the fear and memories that I did not want to experience. I remember trying to keep it all together once I stepped foot inside the clinic. They had asked me to gown up and sit in a waiting area where I was probably waiting for about 10 minutes and I finally broke from the anxiousness. Tears poured down my face and I was wailing. The nurse obviously noticed my emotional breakdown and both her and the doctor really did a great job consoling me. The breast biopsy went like this: you lay down on a chair, injected numbing in several parts of the breast, then a gigantic needle is punched into the tissues with the help of an ultrasound tool to localize the lump. The doctor took a few punch biopsies, chatted a bit on my future endeavors, and then I was on my way. I cried the whole time I was there. Not because it physically hurt, but because I was completely incapable of taking on so much emotional trauma that all came back at once.
Fast forward to 2019, I had started my first real job after Optometry school and residency. I landed an amazing opportunity at the Mayo Clinic, with that though, came with the sacrifice of being away from my boyfriend, friends, and family. Although I started my career strong, I knew that tough times will be ahead as I moved to this new city alone. One of the perks that came with my health insurance was genetic testing. This was something that really peaked my attention very early on. After the experience of the biopsy, I wanted to start taking my fear of breast cancer into my own hands. Genetic testing for the BRCA genes was my number one priority and the first step in rewriting my story into something more positive.
See you next week for the continuation of "Living for now to prepare for the future - Part 2"