I met with the surgeon at MGH today and she’s absolutely lovely. I also met with a geneticist and had labs done to check for the BrCa1/BrCa2 gene mutations. If I’m positive for either or both of these genes, it will have implications for my immediate and extended family….but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the results come back negative. The vast majority of breast cancers are random, and not genetically-induced, contrary to popular belief.
Many of you have asked about what the surgery/surgeries entail, when and how I’ll find out if I need chemo and/or radiation, etc. Unfortunately we won’t have all the answers until the day of surgery, and then when final pathology results come back on my breast tissue. The first (and maybe only) surgery will be the mastectomies – because I’m not opting for a huge “upgrade” in size (sorry, no DD’s for this girl), the plastic surgeon may be able to do the implants at the same time. This will be a 4 to 5 hour procedure…yikes. One night stay in the hospital. Two weeks no driving. Six weeks total recovery.
If they aren’t able to put in the implants at the same time, then they insert “expanders” underneath the pectoralis muscle. Every few weeks they inflate the expanders to stretch out the pectoralis muscle, and about 12 weeks later, the implants are put in. That second procedure is really much easier than the mastectomies.
Regardless of what happens in terms of the implants though, at the time of mastectomies the surgeon does what is called “sentinel node resection”. This process removes the local lymph nodes which drain the breast tissue. A frozen slice is sent to the pathologist during the procedure and they look for cancer cells in the slice of the lymph nodes. If there are cancer cells in those lymph nodes, then an additional procedure called “axillary node dissection” is done – this is a more comprehensive removal of ALL the local lymph nodes. With this comes the lovely long-term complication of “lymphadenopathy” of the arms. A fancy word for swelling, which I would deal with for the rest of time. But that’s better than having cancer though, right??
If there are cancer cells in any lymph nodes, I will get radiation and chemo. I will probably also be on a cancer-preventing medication called Tamoxifen for at least 5 years. If I have the mutated genes, I may need to be on it for life. This medication blocks your estrogen, basically giving me the symptoms of menopause. But that’s STILL better than having cancer…right??
I will meet with the plastic surgeon next week to get more details about the two possible surgeries, and to pick out my new boobs – errr, implants! Yes, Austin is coming to that visit also. He can’t wait to post a picture of what we’re choosing, hahaha 😉
Oh, and we have a surgery date….so mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 19th!!