Friday, November 21, 2014

Get a mammogram, man!

In my previous post I talked about my recent annual check-up and all that changes when one starts rounding 50. I purposely left out one thing as I wanted to wait until some more information came my way.

There's a lump in my chest.
One of the benefits of Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle is that I'm seeing a new body unfold and appear after years of flab. But a decrease of flab also means I'm seeing things that may have long been hidden.

A few months ago I noticed a bump on my smaller, firmer chest (from man boobs to DAN boobs, I always say!). At first I assumed it might be a contusion of some sort. I'm sort of clumsy and sometimes the barbell or cable may hit me as I'm weight training. But then it never went away. Months later there's still a lump.

Just next to that little inked petal....

So, during my annual checkup, I point this out to my doctor. He pokes around, confirms my family cancer history (both sides, lots of breast cancer) and hands me a referral for a mammogram and ultrasound. "Make an appointment as soon as possible," he said (which was not what he said about getting a colonoscopy, so I noticed.)

Fun Fact #1: While breast cancer in women is over 100x more common than in men, there are still about 2,400 new cases in men each year.  (via the National Cancer Institute)

Yet another 1% of which one hopes to not be a part ...

It's shocking news to think you might have cancer. What would happen next? Would this blog be taken over by a whole new journey of my body?  I had one week between the check-up and the mammogram and I did the wrong thing. I made the rookie mistake:

I looked up stuff about the disease on the internet. 

And I'm a librarian! I should know better!

So this entire week, I read forums and research on treatment, side effects, mortality rates. It was not time well spent. All I could think about was that surgery and hormone therapy would make me lose my nipple and my libido, both of which I was very fond. Not to mention chemo, lymphedema, mestastasis, watching what friends and family went through...Basically I went down the hole I would have smacked someone else for doing. I was a wreck. And I began to think the worst.

And after a fitful and scary week, it was time for the exams.

Fun fact #2: Mammograms for men are ONLY covered by insurance if it's for diagnostic purposes (i.e. if you're symptomatic) and not just for check-ups. (via your insurance company of choice).

It is very odd going into a women's health area of a radiology center and being one of the only men. It turns out the other guys were there for other radiology issues, so I already felt very awkward. For the most part, the staff was great, although the forms to fill out were pretty much gender-specific and not really answerable. (Questions about pregnancy, lactation, the perky breast drawings to show where you had issues). At least it wasn't all pink!

The mammogram tech was wonderful. She walked me through everything, told me what she was doing, prodded and maneuvered me, felt the lump and marked it to make sure it was scanned, compared it to my other Dan-boob, and had a generally good attitude for someone who does a procedure associated with a nasty health issue. 

Fun fact #3: Mammograms hurt!!!  (via my man boobs)

Perhaps having more material to slap onto those plates would be easier, but my Streamlined pecs got squeezed and pressed so freaking hard. I have even more respect for women for doing this. All we men have to deal with is a finger up our butt to feel our prostate for less than a minute. Can you imagine if our little fellas got this treatment?

I'd give credit but it's been Pinterested so many times without a citation. Shame!

Anyway, that took about 30 minutes and then I returned to the waiting room half dressed for my sonogram.

Over 30 minutes later, the ultrasound tech called me in. She asked where my lump was. I showed her.

She looked at me derisively. "I don't feel anything," she snorted.
"Well, my doctor did or else I wouldn't be here," I responded.
She pressed around some more."Show me."
"Is that it?"
*snort* "That's all?"

All good feelings I had went out the window. THIS is how you treat someone coming in for a possibly scary diagnosis? Aren't most lesions and tumors only 2-3 cm.? Could you show SOME compassion?

She began the scan. "That looks like a lipoma. Lipo means FAT!" she said as she looked at my stomach.
"Well, better safe than sorry. I've had a giant cell tumor before, so even benign items need to be looked at." (And why am I defending the need to be here?)
"Stay here. Don't get dressed."
A few minutes later, she came back. "I'm giving it to the radiologist. I think you're fine. You can go."

Fun Fact #4: I looked up some reviews of this diagnostic center. All good except for the waiting and this one tech. I can only imagine what those pregnant women coming in for ultrasounds had to endure. ("THAT'S your baby? *snort*") (via Yelp)

But after all that, the radiologist confirmed with my primary doctor that it was indeed only a lipoma: a benign tumor of adipose tissue. My doctor wants to monitor it to see if excision will be necessary at a later date, or if there's any change to it's composition. But as of now, no surgery, no nipple or tattoo loss, nothing but relief!! And no major changes to our regularly scheduled blog theme!

But perhaps there's also a new found sense of awareness for my own chest. Breast cancer can hit men and those of us who come from breast cancer stricken families should check ourselves on a regular basis.

If nothing else comes from this, I make it my pledge to talk about this issue. Get checked. Do it. Do it now.


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