WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called "Me & the Girls," explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Mammograms don't determine whether someone has breast cancer. But they can show a suspicious spot that warrants further testing.
Mukai says her first mammogram showed some suspicious spots in her right breast. She quickly got a follow-up mammogram and an ultrasound to take another look, and then a biopsy. While she was getting those tests and waiting for the results, she did some research and learned that it was unlikely but possible that she had cancer. "I prepared for the worst-case scenario," Mukai says.
She was diagnosed with a tumor in her right breast. She had considered herself to be in good health, with no chronic illnesses. And breast cancer is usually found in older women. So before her diagnosis, breast cancer wasn't on her radar. "That didn't cross my mind," Mukai says.
The tumor was tiny, she says, and the doctors she talked with said she could have a lumpectomy (removing the tumor and saving the rest of her breast) followed by radiation. Mastectomy (surgery to remove the breast) was an option, but it wasn't a necessity.
The diagnosis was still "a bit of a shock," she says. And she counts herself as "very lucky" to have found it. "Even though it's not good news, it's not a death sentence that it would have been years ago," she says.
Aggressive approach: Mukai did her homework, talking with her doctors and weighing the pros and cons of each surgical option.
"It's life-altering, or body-altering, decisions that you have to make, and getting yourself educated helps you initiate conversations with your doctor that you can understand and make the right one, so you feel much better about making those decisions," says Mukai.