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Highly Probable. Dark Humor. Can My Cat Handle This?

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jh40
jh40 Member Posts: 140
edited April 2022 in Not Diagnosed But Worried

40 years old here. Went to the gynecologist for my first routine since the start of Covid on 4/14. (I had Covid/pneumonia Feb '20 and I was not messing around with the indoors. I figured my ovaries and my breasts could wait it out.)

My excellent doctor found a lump at 12:00 in my right. Immediately scheduled a mammogram/ultrasound.

I manage to make it to the hospital for the imaging a couple days later. After being in hysterics for the entire procedure, sobbing, crying, making everyone's job hard to do, the Director of Radiology who reviewed my images got on the personal cell phone of the ultrasound tech and our convo was:

"In my experience, the mammogram and the ultrasound do not look good."

"Okay, so what are the chances here that this is not cancer? 50/50? 60/40? 70/30? Cancer's favor of course."

"It is highly probable that it is cancer."

"Is there a chance it's not?"

"Small."

"Well. How big is it?"

"1.1cm."

"Are my lymph nodes swollen?"

"No."

"Okay. Well. I guess that's good."

"In my experience though, I believe you'll do well."

"Thanks for talking to me."

"You're welcome."

"Doctor, if you ever want to switch careers, you have a terrific radio host voice."

(She laughs.)

"I'm normally funnier than this but you've caught me at a bad time."

My brain defaults to humor as a coping mechanism once I've entered the darkest reaches.

I'm not really expecting anything other than cancer at this point. I don't really feel like the Director of Radiology would stick her neck out like that for me unless she was certain.

Now. Here's where I get nuts. I'm from a scientific background and I figured I could sort through non-filtered Google and come up with my statistical likelihood of cancer subtype, survival rate, treatment options, the whole works, in an effort to feel like I've got this...which is what the people who I've told have told me. Turns out younger women seem to have tougher times. More aggressive subtypes. I didn't think I was particularly young anymore but it turns out in Cancerland I guess I still am.

I've also been a fairly intense hypochondriac my whole life. My first girlfriend died of ovarian cancer at 27 years old. That left me pretty terrified of cancer. As the years passed and I thought it more practical to focus on my heart. Mom had 2 strokes before 50 and a heart attack that resulted in 11 stents before 60. Pop's got high cholesterol and is on the statin/beta blocker combo. I figured my genetics were gunning for my heart; the family tree was ripe with that fruit. There was nothing cancerous. In any organ. On both sides of the family.

But now here I am. Highly likely to have breast cancer at 40.

I've lurked on a couple of forums over the past few days and seen a lot of tough stories. I'm picturing the surgeon opening me up expecting a nice, breezy operation that she can wrap up in time for lunch, only to find a can of cancerous worms jumping up from under my nipple and around the bend like Tremors. Maybe even a few giant tumors growing into my chest wall. 150 positive lymph nodes. The works.

Like I said, I go to the dark reaches.

After a few days of mental self-torture I hear from my gynecologist once she has my imaging and report in front of her and she tells me:

"I've seen a lot of cancer. This is not going to kill you."

I break down and cry. I want to believe her. So badly.

I want to believe I'll be able to be strong. Find the inner warrior. Make it through the worst and come out on the other side my very best. Live a long life and put it all behind me. It just seems more like I'll end up being thought of when my friends hear the Billy Joel song playing on the juke at the bar. And I'm not even that good!

And what the hell is my cat supposed to do? She expects the playtime before bed. She doesn't like it when I lay around. She's high maintenance. I have my doubts about her ability to adapt.

My biopsy is Monday, 4/25.

If you've got this far, thanks for reading.

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Comments

  • tntnsd
    tntnsd Member Posts: 124
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    Hi jh40

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts/your worry in such a dark humor kind of post. I am so sorry that you have to be here, facing a possibility of joining this club that no one want to join. It’s probably hard for you to believe now, but many of us found it is extremely excruciating waiting for the biopsy, diagnosis than going through with the treatment once diagnosed. Please find comfort with your doctors assessment of your ultrasound/mammogram. I truly hope your biopsy turn out to be benign (after all, there’s a chance right ?); however, if it is cancer, I hope it is early stage, and remember there’s a lot of treatments for it.

    Best wish

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    Hi tntnsd

    Thank you for your advice. My mind is in overdrive refusing to accept that the tumor is actually 1.1cm. I keep thinking they will open me up and find that it is bigger and has spread to the lymphs. I’ve seen a lot of stories like that. It’s so scary. I can’t sleep and can barely eat. It’s pretty torturous.

    Hopefully it will be something I can get through

  • 1982m
    1982m Member Posts: 224
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    jh40,

    I'm your age. Triple positive (er/pr/Her2). On ultrasound they said my lump was about 1.5cm. However, it ended up being only 0.8cm- no nodes and no lymphovascular invasion. So it CAN go the other way!

    You are by far experiencing the worst time right now. The unknown is awful. Your mind goes to all the awful places. I promise you that once you know more you will feel better. Even when the news is less then ideal, it's better then the not knowing.

    You are right- it's prob cancer. If it's not cancer, they will prob take it out anyways since it looks so much like cancer.

    Someone told me something like “don't borrow from tomorrow's sorrow' and not to let fear take over. So I really try to go get sucked into 'what ifs'. I do let myself feel scared sometimes, or sad….but then I try to focus on the here and now and all the good.

    For your sake I hope it's nothing, but even if it is- there is a host of treatments to help you live a long life.

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    Thank you for your kindness. There's been a wealth of that since I first found out. It's unreal how kind everyone has been. And it's so appreciated.

    I went down the rabbit hole pretty deep researching subtypes, but I don't think I'm much aware of triple positive. Is your treatment a lot different than the others?

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,176
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    The waiting is the absolute worst part of this. Once you have a plan, you feel more in control and it WILL GET BETTER. There will be tests to determine your treatment plan. Our minds do go dark places, find something fun to do too distract yourself.

    As for the cat, Miss Divas routine won’t be disturbed. Spookie got a poodle brother during my first chemo. She survived.

  • cathy67
    cathy67 Member Posts: 411
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    jh40,

    I was recalled at my 1st mammogram when I was 45 years, I had to book school time for appt cause I took care my child alone. Now she grows up, but there still lots of family stuff, and I found I was almost crazy these days. Tomorrow to review ultrasound report with family doctor, May 4 is biopsy day. I even don't have opportunity to talk to radiologist. Hopefully this is my last biopsy,no matter the result, I don't want to be ordered for biopsy again.

    If you read posts here, lots of biopsy turned out benigh, hopefully both of us go that direction as well.

    Cathy

  • tntnsd
    tntnsd Member Posts: 124
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    Hi jh40

    Yes, what it is found during ultrasound/mammogram can go either way at final pathology report. Most of the times, you read there is a upgrade (bigger tumor size or how invasive), but it is likely that we tend to report or document such cases more than in case of reverse. In my case, it showed >6cm with no lymph involved in mammogram/MRI, and I was so scared and thought it gonna be at stage 1 or 2, based on reading (and probably misreading) about tumor size and stage; it turned out that after surgery, since it remained DCIS, stage 0. You are in the worst time right now with all the unknowns. If you can’t sleep, or feel like you are losing it with anxiety, please don’t hesitate ask your doctor for some medication. Many of us did (and I did, just to get through few nights).

    Take care

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    spookiesmom - thank you so much for the kind words. :) Many women have said it gets better once you know what you're dealing with. It seems so strange doesn't it, that once you know what's really lurking under the hood so to speak, it gets better.

    I'm a big horror movie fan and I guess I liken it to the jumpy moments, when the evil axe-murderer is finally revealed and then it's not as scary anymore.

    Also you're totally right that my cat Little Baby will survive! And hopefully me right alongside her. :)

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    cathy67 - I feel just awful for the women with children going through this, or the ones who are pregnant when they find out! I just can't wrap my head around that. I think those women must have an unbreakable strength, because their very hearts are beating outside of their bodies in their children.

    I do hope you and I come out on the other side happily like I've read from a lot of these posts. It's so hard right now to have hope that things will be ok, but hearing from you and the others on here has made me feel a lot of support and I appreciate you. I hope you find the same here.

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    tntnsd - I have gotten some medication today, thankfully. I could certainly use some better sleep.

    I do trust the radiologist; she was the Director of Radiology for the hospital I went to and I'm sure had plenty of experience and a stellar education.

    This said, you can't know for sure, and because I've gone down the rabbit hole on Google so deeply these past few days I think I've made it feel like my inevitable demise is arriving 4 decades (give or take) early.

    1982m shared the great term in this thread: "Don't borrow from tomorrow's sorrow."

    Wise words indeed. Here's hoping I can take them to heart.

  • sarahmaude
    sarahmaude Member Posts: 338
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    I’ve recently joined the BC club, and humor is my coping mechanism. Sometimes. It’s also reading everything, obsessing in general, and coming here.

    What I can say based on my reading is that your cat has nothing to fear. When you feel like curling up in a ball, she’s gonna have a great seat. Even if your tumor size doubles, you have a small one!

    The waiting is the worst. I went from a biopsy to an MRI, which showed highly probable concentric (extra nearby) tumors. Guess what, the radiologist was friggin wrong about the extra tumors she saw, and biopsied, and wired, and had the surgeon remove. I did have one big ugly guy, but the other tissue was benign. Images are great, but they don’t tell the whole story.

    So, breathe. I hope you are going to find out it’s nothing. If it is something, keep coming here and I’ll join you in dark humor, empathy, and any other feeling you need to explore. And your cat. She’s gonna be fine.

  • cathy67
    cathy67 Member Posts: 411
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    jh40,

    I also have scientific background, I am studying this monster again 2 years after my last battle. NCCN guideline defines everything, and local breast center website is another valuable info source. For community support, I think BCO is a very good virtual online support group, while locale breast center usually offer on site counselling service. Unfortunately my local breast center only offers online support now.

    Pray for your April 25 biopsy. Pray it is negative, if not, pray it is small.

    Cathy

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    sarahmaude - you're ace. Thank you for giving your experience and thoughts to me. It's really helping, the things you said and all the kindness the others have shown to me. Truly unreal how lovely everyone is.

    You sound like my Mom's coworker Bonnie with your radiologist experience. Back when Mom was working with a bunch of other women around her same age they all had mammogram war stories to swap. Bonnie was always particularly outraged when any of the women had to go to battle.

    Mom had a scare once and Bonnie told her:

    "Do you know how many TIMES I've been told that they see something?! And then I have to go back and they stick me like a pin cushion, send me through the wringer for days on end only to turn around and tell me there's NOTHING &*#$ THERE! Don't worry; you'll be fine!"

    Now Bonnie's been particularly lucky and that's a fact. But I think the moral of yours and her story aligns. And it's nice to know that some of us have these stories to tell. They might not be my story, but goodness knows they're nice to hear.

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    cathy67 - I think that's the worst thing as well: the fear of recurrence. It's one thing to fight the good fight and live to tell the tale, and then it's another to have to carry the weight of what if for as long as we walk this world.

    It's really crap that you're going through that again - and so soon! I could maybe see like 20 years later, but 2? My heart hurts for you. I hope yours is nothing.

  • cathy67
    cathy67 Member Posts: 411
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    jh40,

    I pray that both of us are another Bonnie!


  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    cathy67 - absolutely! I'll be praying for you too. And for all of us.

  • kotchaj
    kotchaj Member Posts: 211
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    jh40,

    Hang in there. This is the absolute worst part. Waiting is not easy. There's a saying about when one door opens, another one closes. AND....sometimes it's HELL in the hallway waiting for the other dang door to open! Whatever it is you will make a plan with your team and you will follow it. I'm a check off the boxes kind of girl myself and feel better when I know what I'm planning to do next.

    The cat will adjust. I promise. We have two dogs and one of them is NOT a cuddly one at all so my job for her life so far is to "ruin her" into being one. She now will sit on my lap when I get home from work, but I am NOT allowed to touch her while she's doing it, lol.

    Sending you all the good juju I can. It could still turn out to not be cancer. And like I said, if it is, we're here for you.

  • cathy67
    cathy67 Member Posts: 411
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    jh40, I just got my suspicion, it is 5x4x5mm, better than I thought. The biopsy will be May 4. Enjoy the weekend.

  • salamandra
    salamandra Member Posts: 736
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    I had just turned 38 when my doctor found the bump. My mother died of breast cancer, and I was terrified.

    Getting cancer (and youngish) made me feel really unlucky, so I assumed everything about the cancer would also be worst case scenarios, all the way down.

    Well it turned out that, except for, you know, the cancer, everything else went lucky for me. Tumor under 2cm, hormone positive, no node involvement, low oncotype, etc. My biggest issue was finding a hormonal treatment that I could tolerate, but eventually that worked out too.

    The waiting at the beginning was excruciating. I hope you will be lucky too, but whatever it is, it gets better and better as you learn more. Which is a process, information dribbles in and the waiting always sucks, but nothing like the waiting at the very beginning.

    And my cat was totally fine :)


  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    kotchaj- thank you for that encouragement. there seems to be a streak in the collective community that the waiting is the worst part. In some ways I feel like depending on what the results are it could be the easiest part! Hopefully things won’t turn out as terribly as I’ve imagined them to be.

    I agree with the box ticking off sentiments, although I've always lived my life with little tolerance for anything that gets in the way of being happy. I’ve also been a bucking bronco when it comes to being reigned in by any rules that don’t make sense to me.

    I think that’s why I’m having such a hard time too: cancer doesn’t make sense. For anybody.

    I like the image of your dog on your lap tolerating the attention but drawing the line at too much affection. Sounds like a lot of cats I’ve known!

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    cathy67 - that is great news! I’m chuffed for you! I hope the biopsy goes well. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts.

    You crossed my mind a few times today and I said a little prayer each time.

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    salamandra - it’s so nice to hear that some of us youngish women are fortunate with our diagnosis. In the darkest depths of Google you can find plenty of horrendous statistics about what can happen at this age. It isn’t pretty at all.

    In between thoughts of planning my own funeral, choosing ways to tell my friends and family goodbye, and agonizing over the terror of chemo and radiation, I have had a few fantasies about hitting the winning combination in my own diagnosis, and in my mind it looks pretty identical to yours.

    My cat is currently perched peacefully atop my feet in bed. This is a rare move on her part; she’s normally fussy and fidgety or whining when there’s no small bugs for her to kill. Seeing her like that makes me think maybe there’s hope for her after all.

    Maybe me, too. :)

  • salamandra
    salamandra Member Posts: 736
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    For what it's worth, I actually bought a cemetery plot (next to my mothers') during the wait time between diagnosis and my first oncology appointment. To be fair, I figured that no matter what, I'd need it eventually! :)

    Our fear isn't a reliable indicator of anything except the current state of our psyches, and I've recently read a little about how our brains gravitate towards worst-case scenarios because it could have helped with survival back in the ancient days of saber tooth tigers, etc.

    Our information is also skewed. I knew about my friends and extended community who had died of cancer, including at younger ages. But what I didn't know until I posted about my own diagnosis on Facebook and shared very openly at work was how very many women, including at younger ages, had had breast cancer that I had no clue about. Some people are purposely discreet about it, but even for those who are not, a few years out, it often just won't come up.

    In any case, with breast cancer like ours, even the worst case scenario (a de novo stage 4 diagnosis) will not be super fast. Depending on the location and nature of the mets, there are treatments that will prolong life for years. If you need to plan your goodbyes and funeral, there will be plenty of time later, is what I'm saying.

    But I think it's much likely that you will not have a worst-case scenario. I can't think of any logical reason for you to put more stock into your spinning and scared brain (not a judgement! this is a natural way to be!) than into your experienced radiologist's educated guess. You are trusting her that it looks cancerous, why not also trust her that it looks treatable?

    (I know why not to trust her - it's because of that spinning and scared brain and feelings that are not really under our control. But at least hopefully you can interrupt the cycle sometimes and inject some distance and skepticism between your brain and your feelings).

    Good luck, and hang in there! It really does get easier. I thought the same thing you did - that this part might be the easiest if I had a worst-case scenario. But from reading these boards it seems that even for de novo stage 3 and stage 4 people, they also say it got easier once they had some more real information and a plan.

    For me, the exhalation started with my appointment with my first oncology appointment. The information does keep trickling in over weeks/months even in a best case scenario, but even though the waiting sucked, it was never as bad as those early weeks.

    I wish I had asked my doctor for help earlier. I finally got some ativan that really really helped. I think it basically did kind of interrupt the vicious cycle between my brain and my feelings, and just let me get some breaks from the *emotional* intensity of the fear, even if the *intellectual* concern was still there. Worry and fear is exhausting, so it was definitely a compounding benefit.

  • cathy67
    cathy67 Member Posts: 411
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    salamandra,

    Thanks!! Your comments made me feel comfortable. What I did during waiting time is to eat, cause I worried future treatment, I want to store energy in my body just like we store food for covid. It turned out I gained more than 10 lbs, then I got to do training to cut those fat.

    After I got suspicion details, I slept very well last night, my resting heart rate went down.

    jh40,

    Forget everything, enjoy the weekend. If you want to, write something here, I am interested to read.

    Cathy

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    salamandra - what a wonderful and thoughtful response; thank you for sharing all of this with me.

    It makes perfect sense as well, to put some skepticism between myself and the fear to consider that the radiologist is more than likely correct. my gynecologist offered the same assessment to me. I think I will try hard to focus on that.

    I find it incredibly interesting what you discovered when you were open about your own diagnosis, that more women than you realized had been through it. I suppose I understand entirely why many women wouldn’t want to talk about it after; just move on from it. But the shared experiences are so valuable and give great comfort and perspective. I’m glad that helped you and am grateful to be helped as well by that.

    Throughout this process so far it makes me wonder why this entire thing isn’t made better? My Mom in particular has been upset that I’ve had to wait for anything. Back in the 1980’s she worked in a doctor’s office and when a woman came in with a lump there were more immediate results.

    I also wonder why not an MRI if so many issues with lumps being sized inaccurately? I’m sure there are reasons for this, but it seems a shame that tech exists which would provide more accuracy faster and alleviate women from taking rides on this agonizing roller coaster of terror.

    One thing is my mammogram was done with the newer 3-D machine. I’m not sure how new it is since it was my first one, but maybe it’s good enough to see enough?

    I have definitely got some Ativan. Wonderful drug; I wish it wasn’t addicting and that it didn’t cause memory glitches because I’d take it daily if not for that! But it’s great for helping with the sleep.

    I want to thank you again for sharing what you did. I’m going to keep it all in my thoughts.

  • jh40
    jh40 Member Posts: 140
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    cathy67 - I’m so glad you slept well. You just can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep can you? My resting heart rate has been a lot higher than normal of course, too. It’s uncomfortable isn’t it? Looking forward to getting it back down again.

    I’m the exact opposite with the food thing; it’s been tough trying to eat. I do manage to get a massive breakfast in most of the timeso at least there’s that!

    I have a good friend here who came to visit me so I’m going to spend time with him and maybe hit the beach. I’m in Florida and the weather this weekend is exceptional. Why not enjoy it right?

  • cathy67
    cathy67 Member Posts: 411
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    jh40,

    Yeah, enjoy the weekend with your friend.

    When I did biopsy last time, the very nice nurse said to me, if it is, treatment will be very successful. Once there is the treatment, we won't be scared of diagnosis, just like covid. Actually yesterday, when I arrived in my family doctor's clinic, reception told me they just have a positive staff, I can just cancel my visit, I said, no, I don't care. Technology is moving forward very fast, I wish in the near future, human being has solution for cancers, then no body has dreadful waiting game.

    Cathy

  • melbo
    melbo Member Posts: 266
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    I was 41 when I was diagnosed and it completely shocked me. I knew very little about breast cancer except I knew a lot of women were treated with radiation and surgery and that was it. The Google rabbit holes after my diagnosis were a terrifying education in what could happen, but then I found this community, which helped put it all in perspective.

    One thing to remember is that even if you have a more aggressive type and need the full chemo routine — it will almost certainly be easier than you think. And as someone earlier in the thread pointed out — even the absolute worst case scenarios (which are very rare) are usually treatable for many years with a good quality of life.

    (My profile is messed up after the site “upgrade” but I was ER/PR negative, HER2 positive so I got the full chemo, surgery, radiation, herceptin ride. It all sucked a lot and the entire experience was terrifying, but it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be and 8 months after my final treatment I am to the point where I mostly don’t think about it too much anymore.

  • cathy67
    cathy67 Member Posts: 411
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    melbo,

    Totally agree! I was diagnosed right before my 52nd birthday, it is a tough journey, but definitely easier than I thought, and almost all the women said so, if they were diagnosed these few years.

  • sarahmaude
    sarahmaude Member Posts: 338
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    Jh40, I have the answer on why not MRI! Breast MRIs take about an hour. They aren’t comfortable because you are laying on your belly with you boobs hanging through two holes. They are loud, and part of the procedure involves contrast dye that is injected in a vein. Some people are allergic to the dye. I’m a rare case that got a dangerous blood clot from the IV where the contrast was injected. And for me, the MRI didn’t provide anything helpful.

    I’m pretty sure that most surgeons will order an MRI once there is a cancerous biopsy result. Both of my surgery consults were very interested in that test for preplanning.

    But in my experience, I’m really glad for the relative ease of mammography and ultrasound. For me, my mind settled so much after my surgery. Subsequent waiting isn’t fun, but it’s more like an inconvenient friend than a saber tooth tiger at this point.