When your mammogram confirms a lump must be further scrutinized by a biopsy, it’s difficult to squelch the imagination and stop yourself from conjuring up countless worst case scenarios.
Women are particularly adept at imagining the worst and anticipating a biopsy can be pretty darn conducive to such thoughts. The very idea of needles and malignancies is terrifyingly unsettling.
Just the terms core needle biopsy, fine needle aspiration, vacuum-assisted breast biopsy, incisional biopsy and excisional biopsy sound pretty darn daunting.
While I cannot pretend I was not terrified before my biopsy, I did perhaps surprisingly discover my biopsy experience itself wasn’t that bad. I would not have had to have been so anxious about the procedure itself.
Of course, we all know what they say about hindsight, right?
At my breast center, there was beautiful stain-glass artwork in the windows, coffee simmering and relaxing music and lighting. The nurses and technicians wore regular clothing, and even the changing rooms exuded warmth in the deep-colored wooden cabinetry. Femininity, kindness, respect and compassion were mixed in with the decor.
Breast center staff members understand women, breasts, cancer, fear and anxiety. They know they have no control over what the results of a biopsy might be, but they can control the procedure itself. I don’t think I’ve ever been treated as kindly and gently for any other medical procedure.
Having said this, I wonder how men feel when finding themselves in need of a biopsy in such a center.
I had an ultra-sound guided core needle biopsy.
Once changed into my pink flowered gown, I was instructed to lie down on a narrow table that felt like I would roll off if I moved or even blinked an eye. I was covered with a warm blanket which immediately relaxed me, and I noticed the procedure room was also dimly lit and filled with pictures of flowers, seashells and other nature stuff. The only discomfort I felt was a slight stinging as the local anesthetic was injected, which took effect immediately. Thank God.
“I’m going to take the first sample now,” my radiologist calmly informed me minutes later.
Immediately, there was a popping sound, sort of like a nail or staple gun shooting off. That’s when the sample was cut, sucked up, collected and saved to be analyzed. It sounded worse than it felt. Five or six samples the size of grains of rice were taken, and each time I jumped a bit even though I knew what was coming. The jolts were startling and unexpected, but not painful.
“Be sure you get enough,” was my only comment. “I don’t want to come back.”
I watched the entire procedure on a computer screen, observing the shadowy-looking clump of darkness that wasn’t supposed to be there and and that would now determine my future.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, the procedure was over. After a short recovery which included plenty of time for instructions and questions, Dear Hubby and I were sent on our way. Another hurdle had been crossed off our list.
If you find a lump, don’t put off a mammogram or totally freak out about a biopsy. You can rest assured your experience will be made as easy for you as possible.
Try not to let your imagination drive you crazy. Easier said than done, I know.
8 tips to help you prepare for your biopsy:
1. Review your mammogram results with your doctor and find out why you need a biopsy and what one will tell you.
2. Biopsies are not emergencies, so plan it to fit around your schedule (this is not an excuse to put it off).
3. Understand the different types of biopsies and learn what kind you are having and why.
4. Ask how long it will take to get results and how you will receive them.
5. Plan to have someone drive you, if at all possible.
6. Get all of your questions answered before signing any forms.
7. Plan to do little when you get home, you’ll need rest, ice and a little TLC.
8. Try not to imagine every possible worst-case scenario and remember, you will get through your biopsy and whatever else you need to too.
What type of biopsy did you have?
What was your experience like?
This post was last updated April 2020