Saturday, January 5, 2013

STEP BY STEP

Alex & Tasza - Florida, Summer 2006

Sitting there in the surgeon’s office going through all of the results was a lot to take in.  Dr. Surgeon kept stopping during his explanation to make sure that we were following him and not getting too overloaded with information.  Next we went through the results from the surgical pathology report of the biopsy.  The diagnosis was “focal infiltrating duct carcinoma and extensive area of intraductal carcinoma.”  Okay this was a whole new language.  I was going to have to really start doing my research and reading a lot more to learn this stuff.  Dr. Surgeon explained it but there was so much to absorb that I knew I was going to have to get into my book and on the internet when I got home.

To break down the diagnosis so that most of us regular people can understand it would be something like this:

Focal infiltrating duct carcinoma – Carcinoma is another word for cancer.  Infiltrating cancer can grow beyond its original site in the ducts into neighbouring areas.  Sometimes you hear the word invasive to mean the same as infiltrating.  It doesn’t mean that it has spread outside of the breast but just to neighbouring tissue within the breast.

Extensive area of intraductal carcinoma - Intraductal means that the cancer cells are within the milk ducts of the breast.  So in regular people terms the translation is that I had a large area of cancer within the ducts of my left breast.

Dr. Surgeon said that from the looks of the results it seemed that a lumpectomy followed by some type of treatment (either radiation or chemotherapy) might be possible.  A lumpectomy is the removal of the lump and surrounding tissue from the breast while conserving as much of the breast as possible.  That didn’t sound too bad.  He told us that usually a lumpectomy followed by radiation would produce excellent results.  I started to feel a little bit better.

However, Dr. Surgeon was not comfortable just leaving it at that.  Since I was so young and since most young women have very dense breasts, he felt that the mammogram might not be showing the whole picture.  Dr. Surgeon recommended that we do an MRI as our next step.  An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a body scan that uses magnetic fields to look at the internal structures of the body.  Dr. Surgeon told us that he wanted to be sure that we were doing the right thing as far as surgery was concerned and he didn’t want to see me again in a few years.

My Mother-in-law, Elizabeth, completed the Saint Jacques de Compostelle 800 km walk through  the Pyrenees mountains in France and Spain during the fall of 2006. She completed the journey step by step in 31 days.
The MRI should be able to tell us if the lumpectomy would be the best option or if we needed another strategy.  The MRI would show much more than the mammogram did and would give us a better picture of the situation.  In addition, as is standard practice I guess, I was going to have to go through various other tests called “staging”.  I was told that the nurse would contact me with the appointment dates and times for the MRI and the staging.  Staging is a series of tests that are done after the cancer diagnosis that help to determine the extent of cancer that could be in the body. 

We both really liked Dr. Surgeon and he explained things very well.  He also made us feel very comfortable and that we were in good hands.  Literally.  We thanked him and then left the office.  So we had some new information but still had to wait for more.  I guess that would be the way it was going to be with this cancer.  It seemed that each appointment brought some answers but then a whole new series of questions.

Step By Step - Whitney Houston

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