Friday, Jan. 20, 2017....Biopsy day.
This was all brand new...they had just found the lump/lesion/whatever two days ago. My parents insisted on coming. My friends also offered. This is kind, but not necessary (unless you need/want that). You are a little sore afterward but not so much that you couldn't drive home.
On that note: You will be told A LOT of information at ALL of these appointments. It can be a bit overwhelming and there are details you will want to remember. Most people will recommend that you always bring another person along with you...someone who can help you remember what was said or take notes for you. This is something worth considering, but not something I did or plan to do. I prefer to handle personal stuff myself. I do always have something to write on with me just in case I want to take note of something. In my job, I'm used to a bunch of info being thrown at me at once and the medical stuff isn't a problem for me. If this is not the case for you, then definitely take someone with you as a second set of ears and/or take notes. The first couple of appointments consist mostly of information gathering and they will give you statistics on your diagnosis, prognosis, your treatment options, etc.
Back to the biopsy......
I arrived at the Breast Center and was taken to a dressing room where they had me change into one of those pink half-gowns...only covers the top. I was able to leave my jeans and shoes on. I was told to wait in a small waiting area where I sat on a couch watching the news coverage of President Trump's inauguration with another patient. When it was my turn, I was taken into a room that looked kind of like a dentist office....big reclining chair in center. The tech started with another ultrasound. It made me a little nervous because she was only concentrating on my armpit....lymph nodes! I finally asked if this was different than my previous US. She replied that Dr. M wanted a closer look. GULP...I didn't say anything else. I just prayed this was okay. The previous Radiologist had told me two days ago that the lymph nodes looked clear.
A few minutes later, the wonderful Radiologist Dr. M walked in. She was super friendly and fun. We had never met at work, but she sometimes reads the X-rays for our tiny patients. We chatted about that a bit while she continued with the US imaging of my left armpit. She apologized for making me nervous but explained that the previous report did not label a couple of things and she just wanted to be totally sure of the anatomy before she started. She then turned the monitor to show me my lymph nodes and the surrounding vasculature, etc.
Don't be afraid to ask your doctor to do this...ask him or her to point out what things are and what they are looking for. You might not be able to really "see" it like they do, but it helps to have a better idea.
She then began to explain the biopsy procedure, how she would do it, and showed me the clip/marker they would be leaving behind. They leave a clip (the kind they use in heart surgery) at the biopsy site so that if there is any question later, they know exactly where the tissue samples came from. This clip stays in there forever...or until surgery, if that's the treatment route you take. It is MRI safe and you won't set off alarms at the airport.
The chair was reclined and a towel roll was used to prop up my shoulder so that I could leave my arm at my side rather than have it above my head the whole time...that was nice. She numbed the area with Lidocaine...I felt the first couple of needle pricks but nothing much after that. She told me that she could numb more if I needed it. I never did.
My biopsy was a core needle biopsy. The needle is hollow so that when the outer sheath is "punched" it cuts the specimen into the hollow core to be withdrawn.
Dr. M explained that she would take at least 6 tissue samples to be sure that she got a good amount of the lesion.
The lidocaine numbs the sharp pain, but you will still feel the "punch" every time. It wasn't painful, just a little weird. It sounds like the click of a hole punch or a staple gun. We carried on a conversation about work and the terrible traffic in the area and it was very much like a dental visit....not painful, but not something one looks forward to. When she was done, she placed the marker inside and then held pressure for a few minutes to stop the bleeding at the site. The techs dressed the spot with gauze, steristrips and then a pressure dressing on top. I was told to leave that on for 24 hrs. I could shower and pat dry. The steri-strips were to stay on for about a week. (You may be surprised when they come off to find that all that to-do is for an incision the size of a large freckle.)
|This is the biopsy site a month later...looks like a freckle.|
Afterward, they took me down the hall for a couple of mammogram images. She was very gentle and did not press the plates down as much as a typical mammogram. Once the Radiologist ensured that the images showed that the clip was in place where she wanted it, I was free to put my shirt back on and go home. I was told to keep an ice pack on the site for the rest of the day. The whole visit took maybe an hour and a half, including waiting room time.
The ice pack is very helpful! The biopsy site felt like a bad bruise...like you got hit hard there. The next day after running a few errands, I found that I was sore again and used the ice pack. My left breast was swollen afterward for about a week. There was some mild bruising but nothing too bad. The only thing that bothered me were my bras....the underwire was terrible. I dug out my softest bras and had to wear them for a couple of weeks because everything irritated that side of my breast. Even, the seams of my scrub top made me crazy for awhile.
Dr. M informed me that their goal was to have the biopsy results to my OB-GYN within 3 days. I was off of work for the weekend, so I pretty much just took it easy and tried not to think about the results. I figured that the weekend days probably didn't count in the 3 day result timeline, so there really wasn't any point in getting my hopes up for results until probably Thursday.
For me, the biopsy was a step forward and getting it done as quickly as I did was a relief. I'm finding that the waiting is the hardest part on this journey....and there seems to be quite a bit of that. Patience is a virtue though, right?
MY TIMELINE:01/18/17 Repeat Imaging and US of left breast; LUMP found.
12/22/16 Routine Screening Mammogram
12/22/16 Routine Screening Mammogram
01/20/17 Core Needle Biopsy