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Waiting for two different biopsies and freaking out

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SaraJay
SaraJay Member Posts: 63
edited April 2021 in Waiting for Test Results

39 F Canadian. Looking for advice or personal experience to help with my tortuous anxiety. Mammogram and ultrasound two weeks ago and now waiting for biopsy. Found out I have 2 scheduled and a month away! First one is ultrasound guided and the second is mammogram guided (I think for calcification). I don't understand why I need both and can't get answers either. The mass is fairly large and I have swollen lymph nodes in my armpit. These symptoms are making me crazy with fear and I keep thinking of worst case scenarios because of them. I spoke with my family doctor today and begged him to try and get a sooner appointment at another facility because the ones that are scheduled are so far away and they were booked through a walk in clinic. He's going to try to get something elsewhere, but the waiting and worrying is making me sick. I can't even get myself to yoga and I've been practicing for over 8 years. Any personal experience or knowledge of these different biopsies would be appreciated!💕

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  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 8,184
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    SaraJay - We are sorry that you find yourself here and waiting, but wanted to say welcome!

    Unfortunately we probably can't really help you with your question. We hope you will hear from others here that have gone through a similar experience soon. Until then, you can learn more on different techniques that can be used to perform biopsy in our main site, here: https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/type...

    Also, this thread may help you deal with anxiety Anxiety

    Hope this helps! Keep us posted on how things go. We're thinking of you!

    The Mods

  • Kelli4600
    Kelli4600 Member Posts: 1
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    I am so sorry you are going through this and have to wait so long for answers. Im in the US and I will have been waiting 2 months for answers from the discovery of breast changes, so I understand. You said it is schedule with a walk in clinic. Any chance in Canada, that you could get in sooner at the hospital?

  • beesie.is.out-of-office
    beesie.is.out-of-office Member Posts: 1,435
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    SaraJay, sorry that you are going through this.

    Do you have a copy of your mammogram and ultrasound imaging reports? If you write it up here, some of us can probably help explain why you are getting the two biopsies. Or you can scan it and paste a copy in your post here (but black out your name and personal information). At the bottom of the reports there should be a BI-RADs number, which is broad range of risk assessment made by the radiologist.

    When there are suspicious calcifications, usually a stereotactic biopsy (mammogram guided) is done. This is because calcifcations often aren't visualized at all on an ultrasound. For anything that shows on an ultrasound, an ultrasound guided biopsy will be done. An ultrasound guided biopsy is the easiest - you are just lying on the ultrasound table. The stereotactic biopsy is more awkward. There are two ways that it's done, one with the patient lying on a table and the other with the patient being seated. I'm in Canada too and I've had several stereotactic biopsies done at several different facilities, and mine have always been seated. The one thing that I remember from all my biopsies is that the staff is always terrific - they talk you through it and make sure you are okay.

    image . . image


    Both types of biopsies use the same type of needle - it's a core (hollow) needle that pulls up a sample of the tissue. Your breast will be numbed, so you shouldn't feel a thing - and tell them if you do! And be aware that the needle sounds like a staple gun. Normally several samples will be taken from each area that is biopsied.

    Where are you in Canada? There may be options to get in somewhere sooner, but health care is provincial, so the breast imaging/diagnostic process is different in each province, and there obviously is a better choice of facilities in larger cities vs. smaller towns.



  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    I was referred to the hospital by a walk in clinic. I spoke with my family doctor yesterday and begged him to try to get me in sooner at a different facility. His office is going to try and I'm supposed to follow up with him Monday. In the meantime, this is excruciatingly terrifying. I'm a single mom (100% solo) and don't have another adult at home to comfort me.


  • aram
    aram Member Posts: 320
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    SaraJay, I am sorry you are here with us. Which province are you from? In Quebec, we have private cliniques for testing which if you have insurance from work the expense or part of it is covered. Maybe that can be an option to put your mind at ease?

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    Unfortunately I don't have a copy, but I'm seetmy family doctor on Thursday and hoping he can tell me. I'm in BC near Vancouver, so there are many different hospitals and facilities near me. I told my family doctor that I'm willing to drive anywhere to get something sooner.

    As for the two biopsies, I think I'm confused because if they're taking a tissue biopsy under a ultrasound, why take a calcification sample 10 days later under mammogram? It just feels like a nightmare getting worse and worse.

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    I'm in BC and my extended benefits don't cover anything like diagnostic testing. I believe QC has benefits that we don't in the West.

    Being a solo mom, unfortunately I can't afford private care.

  • aram
    aram Member Posts: 320
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    SaraJay, I totally understand. Unfortunately I don't know much about British Columbia healthcare system, but there is a thread here I have seen for women from British Columbia:

    https://community.breastcancer.org/forum/55/topics/779734

    Maybe they might have some tips for you on where you might get an appointment sooner.

  • beesie.is.out-of-office
    beesie.is.out-of-office Member Posts: 1,435
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    SaraJay, it might be that the calcifications are in a different area of the breast, in which case they would need to be checked separately. When you get the imaging report, it will note the location of the areas of concern.

    I'm in Ontario but my understanding is that all cancer care in BC is handled by the BC Cancer Agency. Here is their webpage on breast cancer. You might find something that helps you:

    http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/health-professionals/clinical-resources/cancer-management-guidelines/breast




  • typhoon
    typhoon Member Posts: 59
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    Hi SaraJay - so sorry that you are going through this anxious time! When I was going through the diagnostic process, I ended up having three different biopsies: an ultrasound-guided biopsy for the palpable mass (on the left side) which started the whole journey, and which didn't show up clearly on the diagnostic mammogram; a stereotactic (mammogram-guided) biopsy for calcifications (also on the left side, in a different area) which only showed up on the diagnostic mammogram; and an MRI-guided biopsy for a third small mass (on the right side) which didn't show up on either the diagnostic mammogram or the ultrasound, but did show up on the MRI my surgeon ordered after my diagnosis. It all came down to using the best tool - the one that gave the clearest view of the area of concern - for the job. I hope that you are able to get earlier appointments, and that your results are benign!

  • typhoon
    typhoon Member Posts: 59
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    As far as the different biopsy procedures are concerned, I found the ultrasound-guided and stereotactic biopsies to be the easiest. I was thoroughly numbed up with lidocaine for all three procedures, and the tiny wound caused by the vacuum assisted biopsy device (VAD) was covered with steri strips (which I had to keep on for 48 hours) for all three biopsies. The doctors placed markers/clips in the biopsy site for all three biopsies. The actual biopsies themselves took only a few minutes. There was a little bit of pressure as the VAD was inserted, then a series of loud clicking noises as the device took samples, which was a little startling the first time I heard it. I had very little discomfort, bleeding, or bruising after any of the procedures, and drove myself to/from the procedures without any difficulties.

    The primary differences between the three procedures were positioning and length of time the procedures took: for the ultrasound-guided biopsy, I was lying on the table, positioned properly by a wedge pillow, with a nurse wielding the ultrasound wand and the doctor wielding the VAD, for about 15 minutes from start to finish. The stereotactic biopsy took about 30 minutes, the majority of which time was spent getting me seated and positioned precisely right in the machine. The MRI-guided biopsy took about 45 minutes, most of the time spent going into and out of the tube while the machine did its thing, followed by a quick IV infusion of dye, the biopsy itself, then more tube time to check the placement of the titanium marker.

    Truly, the procedures themselves were pretty easy and painless; the MRI-guided biopsy was the least comfortable, simply because of the way I was positioned in the machine (it's like a face-down massage table, only much weirder), but the other two biopsies were not at all uncomfortable.

    Hope this helps!

  • LivinLife
    LivinLife Member Posts: 301
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    Hi SaraJay! Just want to welcome you and send support. You are in a difficult spot as far as options. I really hope your GP can figure out a way to get you in somewhere sooner. Your anxiety is quite high.... If you could just roll your yoga mat out with the idea of just stretching.... deep breathing or any other part of your practice would be grounding.... at the same time these are stressful experiences and nothing will take this to 0 for you. Do the best you can. You took a big step by reaching out here....

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    Thank you. I'm missing my workouts and flow classes too. I'm going to try this weekend to move more!

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    I tried googling these types of biopsies to get more information, but nothing came up.

    image

    image

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    Update: I received a call today from the hospital. They had a cancellation and my first appointment has been bumped to March 25.

  • sasamat
    sasamat Member Posts: 43
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    Hi SaraJay,

    I'm also in Vancouver and had a fall/winter of scans and biopsies (2 stereotactic mammogram-guided, 1 surgical/excisional, and an ultrasound-guided one that got called off on "game day"). It started at the beginning of September and lasted until late December. Yeah, the waits are very, very tough. It's great that your first appointment has been moved up. You are already getting these next steps much faster than I experienced, FWIW. If you think there's any local Vancouver BC stuff that would be helpful to discuss, I'm happy to. Otherwise, just know the timeline is not unusual and yes, it just plain sucks, when you'd like to get to the bottom of things ASAP.

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    I woke up suddenly at 4am with a racing heart. Then it felt like muscle spasms in my effected breast, followed by a sharp, stabbing pain in my breast. This happened 4 or 5 times in a row and then stopped. Scared the crap out of me and I thought I was having a heart attack (which it wasn't). Anyone experience this type of sudden pain?

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    It suprises me how slowly things move in the diagnosis of things like this. I spoke with a doctor from 811 the other day and he said it's due to our free health care system. Are we short on doctors or resources? I just don't get it. Meanwhile rich people can pay for private care and be seen right away.

  • beesie.is.out-of-office
    beesie.is.out-of-office Member Posts: 1,435
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    SaraJay, I think the middle of the night pain was probably caused by anxiety.

    I don't think it's fair to generalize about healthcare either in Canada or in the U.S.. I've been hanging around here a long time and sometimes the diagnostic process is quick and sometimes it is slow. That happens in Canada and it happens in the U.S. - I've seen the process be just as slow for some Americans as it can be for some Canadians. I'm in Ontario where there really is no opportunity to go private. Depending on one's location and one's doctor, the diagnostic process here can be extremely quick (some facilities have rapid diagnostic clinics where it's all done within 48 hours) or it can take several weeks. In the 'free' public health care system I was diagnosed in 2 1/2 weeks - with Christmas and New Year's in between.

    What I've found is that it's the doctor more than anything that seems to be able to get things moving quickly - and the urgency of the situation. Some doctors push harder than others and when they consider a situation to be urgent, they know what to do to make sure that it is prioritized and handled quickly. In my case, while my diagnosis was quick, it took a while to get into surgery - but that's because my diagnosis was favorable and didn't have the same urgency as some other newly diagnosed patients. I think that's reasonable because I know that if I ever have an urgent need, I'll be quickly bumped to the front of the line. I prefer that healthcare be prioritized based on urgency of need, rather than who goes private vs. who goes public, or who has better insurance.


  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    Hi Beesie,

    I hope the pain was anxiety, though it felt very much like a strong breast pain.

    I agree that it's unfair to generalize the healthcare system. Besides my asthma management and minor doctor's visits, the only other experience I've had was in 2009 when I had pre-cancerous cells found in my cervix. The LEEP procedure was painless and easy and it all seemed to happen quite quickly.

    Perhaps it's mostly due to my high anxiety, but I'm feeling like my symptoms are getting worse while I'm in the waiting game. I'm grateful there was a cancellation that moved my appointment up by a few weeks. I think my first mistake was to be seen at a walk in clinic instead of by my family doctor. Lesson learned and I'm going to be seeing him from now on.


  • LivinLife
    LivinLife Member Posts: 301
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    Soooo happy you were able to get in the 25th! I hope you were able to go to a flow class or do some kind of light physical activity today, esp. after the scary pain you had. I hope it was anxiety. If it does happen again notify your doc just in case high anxiety is causing you physical symptoms.... take a walk, do some light yoga, etc. There will be a bit more waiting yet... it's normal for these kinds of things though the time can vary....

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    Yes, I'm happy I got a sooner appointment, but I have mixed feelings about potentially getting answers soon. I spent some time with my boyfriend last night, which was a nice distraction, but the anxiety just returns when I wake up in the morning. I haven't had anymore painful episodes, but it's still weighing on my mind that it coould be a symptom of something bad.

  • beesie.is.out-of-office
    beesie.is.out-of-office Member Posts: 1,435
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    SaraJay, just checking in to see how you are doing.

    I've been going through lots of tests lately (not related to breast cancer) and I know how easy it is to let the anxiety take over. I saw a post a while back from MinusTwo and she mentioned an expression that I've found to be very helpful; I repeat it to myself when I get stressed out - "Let go of what you can't control."

    It's good that your first biopsy has been moved up. Is that the ultrasound-guided biopsy? That's the really easy one - you just have to lie there.

    Good luck on Thursday!


  • edj3
    edj3 Member Posts: 1,579
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    SaraJay, I'm not diagnosing your middle of the night episode, I'm offering another possibility.

    I have a woman who works for me who's been going through an extremely stressful situation in her personal life, it's really bad. She woke up with pain like yours, convinced she was having a heart attack it was so incredibly painful. She went to the ER and after tests, etc. she learned it was a panic attack. Those things can be very intense and painful (as she experienced).


  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    I'm struggling, but have good and bad moments. The thoughts are difficult to control and now I'm having very disturbing dreams.

    I know I need to try and let go of what I can't control (I have always had a hard time with this). It's all just so scary and I fear that I failed to notice this sooner. Truth is, I was feeling really good and strong and was working out really hard almost every day.

    I think the thought of having answers soon is really getting to my head.

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    edj3, I did consider a panic attack as a possibility. I spoke with a doctor over the phone who said it's too difficult to tell and to monitor myself. The pain hasn't returned since Friday evening, which is good.

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    Searching for something to grasp onto, I spoke with my family doctor just now and I kind of wish I hadn't. He didn't share the imaging report, but told me he's not happy with it and it "doesn't look good". I don't know if I can handle this 😖

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,950
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    SaraJay,

    It may feel like you can’t handle it, but you can. What choice do you have? As for your gp, call back right now and demand, not a word I use often, that he/she explain exactly why he/she said that. I also think it it extremely cruel to say “it doesn’t look good” but provide no further information.

    I don’t know how this will turn out but please know that we’ve all been there and we find the strength to deal with it because there is no other option, unless you want to be like an ostrich. Take care

  • SaraJay
    SaraJay Member Posts: 63
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    I know...I have no choice. I'm just so terrified and don't even know what to mentally prepare for. I felt ok yesterday and this morning until that call

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,950
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    sarajay,

    I understand wanting to be mentally prepared but try not to project too far down the road. You can really only deal with what up you know at the moment. You will create a lot of stress and anxiety if you have too many “what if’s” . You can do this!