Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Introducing my Cancer

I first met my Cancer ten days ago, and I suspect we will have a lot of time to get to know each other better in the months to come.

But I think it's time for a quick introduction based on what I have found out so far.

I have Invasive Lobular breast cancer.  Invasive means that it has broken out and invaded the breast.  It's a proper, grown up Cancer, not a few cancerous cells still figuring out what they want to be when they grow up.

Lobular cancer is the second most common type of breast cancer but it only accounts for 10% of cases - most of the rest are Ductal breast cancer.  Lobular breast cancer forms in the milk producing glands of the breast and doesn't tend to form a single hard lump like Ductal breast cancer, instead growing in a web like manner which forms more of a thickening of the breast tissue.  So it is much more difficult to detect and there are typically no symptoms in the early stages.  

Lobular breast cancer doesn't show up on a mammogram.  There is a fair bit of debate about the high rate of false positives caused by mammograms but women with Lobular breast cancer are the unlucky ones who will get a false negative.  To get this in perspective, imagine 1000 women go for breast screening.  10 of them will have cancer.  Of the 990 who don't have cancer, 89 will be wrongly told that they do.  Of the 10 who really do have cancer, 9 will be correctly diagnosed.  One will be wrongly sent home with an All Clear... unless she is fortunate enough that her mammogram is followed up with an ultrasound.

I am that one woman in a thousand.  How incredibly lucky I am that I had my mammogram in Belgium where ultrasound is routine!

My tumour is large and Grade II, which means it is not the more aggressive type of cancer.  So I suppose that it must have been quietly growing away there for a while, and yet it was well hidden. 
So I guess my Cancer is super shy.

Fortunately, it looks as if my Cancer is also not too desperate to explore the world and (fingers tightly crossed) may not have travelled beyond my left breast.  Typically, although Lobular cancers are slow to spread beyond the breasts, they are often found in both breasts.  So I am glad to have been introduced to one that is so attached to home.  

Two thirds of cases of breast cancer form in women over 55.  At 43, I am on the young side so  perhaps my Cancer has a penchant for the younger lady.

So that's my Cancer.  I'm hoping that our acquaintance will be relatively short.

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