An Unexpected Consequence of Skin Cancer
For the last 23 or so years, I’ve been dealing with basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. I’ve gotten pretty used to the frequent self-skin checks, the regularly scheduled dermatologist’s appointments, and (at least as much as I can ‘get used' to it) the biopsies and any needed excisions. Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve had to deal with something I never saw coming.
Routine mammogram showing a spot
Recently, I’ve been catching up on physicals and routine exams, one of which was my annual mammogram. After my mammogram, I left the hospital thinking that I would soon receive a letter in the mail that everything was good and to return in a year, just like I’ve received every other time. But the morning after my appointment, I got a phone call from my doctor that my mammogram showed a spot and I needed to go back for a diagnostic mammogram.
That mammogram was scheduled for just a few days out. I found it somewhat ironic that a regular mammogram can take weeks to be scheduled, but a follow-up mammogram can be scheduled in a matter of days. The films for the second mammogram were read by a radiologist while I was still at the hospital. I was then taken to a room to meet with a doctor, who told me I had a ‘focus of calcifications’ that was causing concern, and I would need a stereotactic biopsy.
Stereotactic biopsy for a diagnostic mammogram
That was a new term to me. I quickly realized it would be nothing like the biopsy my dermatologist does, where I have a couple of numbing shots and the whole thing is over in a matter of minutes. I was given a pamphlet that described the procedure and had a picture of it, and to say that it didn’t look fun is a definite understatement. The stereotactic biopsy was scheduled for two days later.
Upon my arrival at the hospital the morning of the biopsy, I was taken to the procedure room. One of the first things the tech said to me was "This is going to be hard on you." She said the area they needed to biopsy was up high and it was deep, and it would not be easy positioning me for the procedure, nor would it be comfortable for me trying to stay in that position perfectly still throughout the procedure. Once I was positioned, films were taken to get the coordinates of where the needle needed to go, I was given numbing shots, then an incision was made and the biopsy started.
An uncomfortable procedure
Even though I’ve had numerous medical procedures related to skin cancer, this was probably the worst procedure I’ve ever had done, between the positioning, uncomfortableness, the procedure itself, and the anxiety I had because of it. Once the procedure was over, I had to stay in position while another X-ray was taken and read, and then stay with pressure on to make sure bleeding stopped. And once all that was over, I had to have another mammogram before I could leave.
Scar tissue after skin cancer surgery
Saying that my anxiety level was high during this whole ordeal is also an understatement. Before I left the procedure room, though, the doctor came back in and said he thought there was a good chance the spots on my mammogram were scar tissue from a skin cancer surgery. What??! That is what I needed to hear, though - that there was a chance this wasn’t breast cancer.
A few days after the stereotactic biopsy, I received a call from my doctor’s office and was told that the pathology report showed no evidence of breast cancer! I never imagined that scar tissue from a skin cancer surgery would cause suspicious areas on a mammogram. If you think skin cancer is ‘no big deal’ and can just be cut off and you’re done with it, think again. Please, take good care of your skin and help save yourself a lot of anxiety and stress and ‘what if’s’. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
When was your last skin check?