Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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More Tests, No Mammogram

Today I’m heading to Stanford for my pre-surgery staging tests. My good old friend Michael has driven down from Sacramento for driving duties so that dear, tired Michelle can keep her office open.

So what tests are in store, and, most importantly, which one have I declined? Glad you asked.

The MRI is in. I’ve actually come to not mind being locked inside a metal tube while being bombarded with sound waves louder than a jet engine. For all of its WWII-era ambiance, at least it doesn’t radiate me.

The MRI is the most important test that will be performed today to show where the tumors are and how much healthy tissue (and possibly but hopefully not muscle mass) will have to be taken during the mastectomies.

My surgeon also prescribed a mammogram and ultrasound, which I’ve dutifully submitted myself to throughout this process. But now that I’ve read more about the mammogram, I’ll never have another (not that I will need one sans boobs, but that’s not the point).

The reading material to which I refer has not been about the studies showing that there’s pretty much a statistical survival dead heat between women who have and don’t have mammograms (those studies recently in the news were about diagnosis).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned reading about cancer, it’s that the people who make and sell the machinery get themselves on the boards of the cancer societies who recommend treatment protocol. So equipment makers help decide what’s good for us. Yes, money is the source of all evil.

I declined the mammogram for another reason I had read about, something more insidious and potentially dangerous.

As my female friends know, breasts are squeezed into pancakes on the mammogram machines. It’s painful. But that’s still not the point.

For months I have endured chemo and test drugs designed to track down rogue cells that might have escaped my tumors, entered my blood stream, and taken up residence in my brain, liver, lungs or lymphatic system. Or anyplace else they might be hiding. I don’t want this shit to come back.

So “why,” I asked my surgeon, “after going through all of that would I allow what’s left of my tumors to be flatted and compressed, potentially squeezing cancer cells from them and back into my blood stream?”

There was a long silence in the exam room. Then he said I didn’t have to have the mammogram if I didn’t want it. He could operate just fine using the MRI.

I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. I also had earlier run the theory by another of my medical team. Nobody could tell me for sure that it was an impossibility. It’s simply not studied.

With equipment industry people on the board of the American Cancer Society, it very likely won’t be in the future.

Please take time to Google and read about this on your own!

3 Responses to “More Tests, No Mammogram”

  • Lee Q:

    Your question about squeezing cancerous cells into the system during the boob-flattening process shows why newspaper reporters should be on cancer society boards instead of equipment manufacturer stooges. Good work! And lotsa love from La Habra,

  • brenda:

    I get lots of strange looks from dr’s too when I decline tests that others blindly accept. Good for you for questioning it. Maybe if more people did, they WOULD study it. Stay strong its almost over!

  • maria:

    wow!I understand your point…makes me wonder? Thanks for that enlightenment! Remain strong and Positive. I am doing the same for you :)

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