In October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness I will post a daily blog with a reflection about breast cancer. The reflections will stem from something in the play. (All quoted lines are text from the play.)
Day 3: “Do you remember what it used to be like? Breast biopsies that is, back in the good old days of the 80’s and 90’s? They were really terrible.” That is the line in the show that reminds the audience of the “Frozen Section” ritual of breast biopsies that was the standard of care for many, many years. It was our experience with Susan until 2000. She had three biopsies in the years before the fourth one in 2000 which revealed the cancer. On the third biopsy the practice was to examine the lump or breast tissue “right then and there in the operating room and if the breast tissue or lump were positive, off would go the breast.”
Today, thankfully, the process is more measured. The system has become “Aware” of the need for reflection, clarity and certainty before rushing into a mastectomy. In fact, surgery often comes after chemotherapy today. Treatments have changed radically over the past twenty years.
Yet I wonder even today what would have happened if in 1997 or 1998 during that third biopsy had they removed the right breast? It was a period of transition in breast medicine enough for us to direct that we would not allow a mastectomy during the biopsy process. We wanted to have a second opinion on the tissue, even if it were negative for breast cancer. We wanted to rule out both false negative and false positive. The Mayo Clinic got the privilege of the second opinion. I have suspected for some time that the answer from Mayo would have been different if they were looking at the tissue today. The report they wrote said the case was “very interesting,” because there was a lot of calcification and that Susan should be watched closely. Today I suspect the might have been called “stage zero” cancer. Of course, there is no way to know what would have happed if the mastectomy took place then.
Stat of the Day: Reference to a mastectomy was recorded as early as 548 AD.
Task of the Day: Talk with someone who has had a mastectomy.
Resource of the Day: There are a number of live chat lines or phone lines available to help. Here are two: American Cancer Society National Cancer Institute