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My Breast MRI

By Angela

I’ve always had dense breast tissue and lots of fluid-filled cysts so I wasn’t surprised when my GP recommended that I have a breast MRI. It’s a relatively minor diagnostic procedure, but let me tell you it isn’t so easy to agree to when, like me, you’re afraid of needles and you are claustrophobic.

She mentioned this first about a year and a half ago. Because I have a breast specialist I took my GP’s suggestion lightly. After all, my breast specialist hadn’t yet suggested an MRI. I went online to research and found out that except for my dense breasts I wasn’t a ‘solid’ candidate for the procedure.

At any rate my GP went ahead and scheduled the MRI. I promptly cancelled the appointment, deferring it six months into the future so that I would have time to think about it (or avoid thinking about it!) and discuss it with my breast specialist.

At my next visit to the breast specialist I mentioned that my GP had scheduled the procedure and we discussed its pros and cons. She told me that the breast MRI is well suited to detecting cancer in dense breasts like mine. But the procedure has a high false positive rate meaning that women sometimes have to undergo unnecessary tissue biopsies to determine whether or not cancer is present. As my breast specialist said, ‘you will likely glow in the dark,’ suggesting that, in my case, there was a high likelihood of false positives. Nevertheless, she asked me to reconsider.

Again I put off having the test.

What was stopping me? Certainly I feared finding out the worst. As well, my fear of the procedure itself was also having a huge impact.

Then my view of the situation changed somewhat. My 79-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. My specialist explained that my mother’s breast cancer in late age didn’t represent a huge change in my risk-factor status (risk is much higher if a mother or sister has breast cancer at a younger age). However, she argued that that didn’t negate the fact that my breasts are dense and the yearly mammograms and ultrasounds could be missing something.

About six months later I found out that my hospital had purchased an MRI machine that was open at both ends. I could no longer use my claustrophobia as a reason for not having the procedure. And, I could no longer act like a wimp over one procedure when my mother had endured a year of countless breast cancer procedures with much resolve and incredible stoicism.

The day after my mother called to say all her treatments were finished, I went for my breast MRI.

I’m still waiting to see if I glowed.

Postscript:  The results are in and no breast cancer was detected by the MRI. The author plans to continue to have breast MRIs when her specialist recommends it.

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