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National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: My experience with an invasive breast biopsy



In June of 2012, I had an invasive breast biopsy. The mass ended up being a cyst in the form of a fibroid and benign, as in, non-cancerous. Thank God! Really. Seriously. At the time, my family couldn’t handle another cancer.


This was in June of 2012. Just a few months earlier in February of 2012, my Grandma Shirley had passed away from her second round of breast cancer. One week after we buried her, my Uncle Bobby was given less than a year to live from a cancer that had metastasized throughout most of the bones in his back, ribs, hips and neck, thinking to have originated as salivary gland cancer, which had gone undetected up until that point. So, when my then boyfriend at the time had found a lump in my breast (I wasn’t doing regular self-checks just yet), and then my gynecologist referred me out to a specialist, and that specialist suggest we biopsy it, and then he couldn’t biopsy it without surgically removing it, you can imagine the stress it brought.


There are ways to do non-invasive breast biopsies, however, even though the mass in my boob was pretty big, my doctor couldn’t pin point it in an ultra sound well enough to grab a needle’s worth of cells to test.

He tried SO hard to grab it without the need for surgery and was very frustrated he had to put me through the surgical procedure. I could tell by the look in his eyes how bad he felt, but, even though he had a hunch it would be benign given my age and health at the time (22 years old and a great lifestyle and diet), given my family history and how big the mass was, he needed to test it to make sure it was indeed non-cancerous.


I remember finding out the need for a surgical biopsy after having so many cancer talks those few months before. I felt pretty defeated. I felt so bad for my family. I didn’t know how to take it. At the time, I was living just below Napa in California. My doctor was in Napa. I had a few meetings later on that day. I cancelled all of them. I went to a park, laid out in the sunshine, and read the second Hunger Games Book for about 4 hours straight. I finished it. I didn’t know what the heck was going on in the world anymore.


Cancer runs deep on both sides of my family, especially breast cancer and breast cancer scares. The amazing thing is that none of the women in my family have the official breast cancer gene! Though other cancers have been prevalent in my family, for the purpose of this blog post, here’s a run down of just the breast cancer and scares in my family:

My Late Great Nana Weggland, my Papa’s mother, had a double mastectomy at the age of 82. Two of her sisters also had breast cancer, meaning 3 out of the 4 sisters had breast cancer. She ended up passing from the disease Alzheimer’s, not from the cancer.


My Late Grandmother Shirley had breast cancer twice. The first time was at the age of 55. While she was nursing my mother at the age of 27 she got something called Mastitis, which is an infection of the tissue of the breast which usually occurs while breastfeeding. She received an experimental treatment of X-Ray radiation as a part of a Study at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. Of the 601 women treated with radiation between 1940 and 1957, 51 of them got breast cancer. My mom remembers every woman in the study getting breast cancer. From what I can find online, it looks like the women in the later part of the study received higher doses of radiation, which would include my Grandmother, and those who received the higher doses of radiation got breast cancer. An assumption I’m drawing from my moms memory and the fact my Grandmother was a part of the later group is that this particular group must have all gotten breast cancer.


Almost 28 years after the radiation exposure, she was the last in the study to find out she had breast cancer. She felt the lump and then waited 5 weeks to go to the doctor out of fear. She ended up going through a years worth of chemotherapy after the diagnosis.


The second time she got the diagnosis was when she was 82 and it had already metastasized. She was already weak from a major stroke she had years prior. Though she did have a double mastectomy, she didn’t go through any more extreme treatments because of how fragile she already was. We think the cancer combined with poor health and old age is what made her pass on.


My Great Aunt Barbara, my Grandmother Shirley’s sister, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the age of 75. She had a mastectomy and went through radiation. She is now 80 years old and healthy, taking Tamoxifen, an estrogen inhibitor, to try and help prevent it from coming back.


My Aunt Debbie has had multiple biopsies throughout her life. She had Breast Cancer a few years ago. They caught it early enough where she had a mastectomy without any further treatment.


My Mom, Susie, has had three biopsies in her life, all in the same spot. All three ended up being calcifications. The weird part is in that same spot, years before the first biopsy, she had a brush there for 2 - 3 weeks.


Given my deep family history and the amount of cancer my family had been dealing with over the 5 months prior to the mass in my breast being found, I decided to go through with the invasive biopsy to clear everyones conscience.

The joke I like to tell is that the doctor told me the scar would only be an inch long. I thought, “an inch scar is pretty tiny, it’ll hardly be noticeable.” Well, I’ve got some pretty tiny cha-cha’s, so an inch scar is a majority of my right breast. I use to be pretty embarrassed of it making sure to warn any guy who would be so lucky to see my wonderful little baby cha-cha’s, but now I wear it proud. It’s a part of me and another sign of my health journey.

The mass ended up being a fibroid, or a cyst. The biggest concern about fibrocystic breasts is not he cysts themselves, but the fact that they mimic breast cancer so closely (hence, my case). In most cases the cysts are caused by hormonal changes. My doctor thinks it was the length of time that I was on hormonal birth control. I ended up stopping the pill about a year and a half later because I didn’t like the fact that I had been on it for 8 years combined with the risk of more cysts forming (that’s a story for another time).


What did I learn through all of this? The importance of self-checks. While I know I should be better about it and perform them monthly, I do make sure to perform them every few months. The thing about our boobs is that they are naturally very lumpy! If you’re checking yourself every month around the same time, which is what National Breast cancer.org recommends, you should be able to tell in your own body what is normal vs what is not. This is why self-checks are SO important because a doctor who see’s you once a year for your annual may not be able to detect smaller masses.


How should a breast self-exam be preformed? National Breast cancer.org has a great step-by-step article.


Since it is National Breast Cancer awareness month and I just said above that I’m not usually an every-month kind of person, I’m inviting all you women reading this to join me in making self breast exams a monthly habit. Comment below or share on social media tagging #wholisticbelly letting me know you’re joining me.


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