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Can You Trust Your Mammogram?

More Ways to Get the Answers You Need continued...

When It's Not "Nothing"
Amalia Rigoni, 50
Olympia Fields, IL

Although she'd had a normal mammogram just a few months earlier, in March 2000, Amalia Rigoni was uneasy about a lump she felt in her lower right breast. Both her gynecologist and internist said she was fine. A diagnostic mammogram detected nothing. Still, she insisted on seeing a surgeon. That doctor, a general surgeon, told her to come back in six months. So Rigoni tried another tack: "If your mother had breast cancer, where would you send her?" The surgeon recommended a breast specialist who'd been his professor. The specialist checked her by closing his eyes and palpating the breast. "I don't like the feel of that lump," he said. "It was surreal," Rigoni recalls. "But I said, 'Thank God. At least I know what's going on.'" Almost nine years later — after a mastectomy, reconstruction, radiation, and three years of the drug tamoxifen followed by five on Femara — she's fine. Now Rigoni's a hotline coordinator for Breast Cancer Network of Strength, counseling women who may be facing the same struggle to get answers. "I tell them that doctors may know medicine, but you know your body. If something doesn't feel right, get it checked out." And, she adds, "go to a specialist."

Filling the Info Gap
Evelyn White, 48
San Francisco, CA

Support groups can provide invaluable information that patients may not get from their doctors. Evelyn White, for example, says her medical care was "great." She was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2006, and underwent a mastectomy. But the chemo that followed left her unable to move — and she was suffering terrible crying jags. A friend thought it might be the medicine that White was taking for nausea — Ativan, a powerful sedative. She asked her doctor about stopping the drug and then, at a meeting of a cancer survivors' organization, heard about an alternative. There was a newer drug, Emend, developed specifically to prevent the nausea of chemotherapy — without causing depression. Once her physician switched the meds, "I felt a thousand percent better, physically and emotionally," says White. Later, the group helped in another key way. White had assumed her cancer was genetic (her sister was a survivor as well), and she was worried that her daughter, 24, might be at increased risk. Armed with information she got from a meeting, she underwent testing and, last year, was thrilled to be able to strike that worry off her list.

 

Originally published on September 9, 2008

 

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