Jennifer Douglas

The more we know, the more we can take charge . . . April 17, 2022

The more we know, the more we can take charge of our health and request additional imaging.

I looked down at the ringing phone, and my heart caught mid-beat. My second screening mammogram had been the day before, and if my doctor was calling me, they had found something.  

“Jennifer, the radiologist would like you to come back in for a diagnostic mammogram,” my doctor said. That was surprising. Why another mammogram? Didn’t I just have one the day before?

“What is a diagnostic mammogram?”

“Well, they want to get a closer look at an area of calcifications. This will help them do that,” was my doctor’s response. I had no idea what calcifications were, but it sounded different than what I had previously had in my breast.

In my early thirties, I was diagnosed with benign fibroadenomas in my breast. These are lumps that feel like smooth marbles when I touch them. They were imaged using ultrasound since I was not yet old enough to have my annual mammograms. I had had a few biopsies to verify that they were benign.  

As my primary care doctor talked about the diagnostic mammogram I needed to have, I asked her if she could also order an ultrasound. Since my fibroadenomas were imaged using this technique, I decided to ask her for an additional scan.

She was happy to place the order for the ultrasound and the diagnostic mammogram. 

After more imaging and getting a second opinion with a different breast surgeon, my biopsy revealed DCIS – stage 0 breast cancer in my right breast. That second mammogram at 41 had caught the cancer at the earliest stage.

I like to share this story because I think it is essential that we ask our providers for additional imaging. I knew that my breasts were dense because my previous mammogram report had told me. When I was in my thirties, I asked my radiologist why they didn’t use mammograms on me. He told me that it was because younger women typically have denser breasts. Ultrasound was a better way to image specific areas in dense breasts.

Now, when have the opportunity to talk to someone about their imaging report, I ask them what their breast density is. If they have dense breasts, I ask them if they’have had additional screenings. While a mammogram detected my DCIS, even in my dense breasts, that is not the case for everyone. The more we know, the more we can take charge of our health and request additional imaging.

Are you curious about what additional screening techniques are available? Read more HERE.


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