Biopsies and Frozen Peas

A needle core biopsy is actually a pretty cool thing. It would be much more cool if it was happening to someone else, but this was mine and I was interested in exactly how it worked.

I hadn’t planned to have anyone pick me up after – really, it’s kinda like going to the dentist, I figured. We’ve all had our jaw frozen, cavities filled, and driven home with a frozen mouth, slightly drooling over your frozen-like lip. The biopsy wouldn’t take nearly as long as a cavity, and my boob would be frozen –  what was the fuss? However, several girlfriends insisted it would be a good idea to have someone drive me home. I’m glad I took their advice.

It’s a pretty straightforward procedure. They freeze your boob in the area of the ‘suspicious thing’, and then a long, thin, hollow needle is inserted and a spring-loaded mechanism snips three or four pieces of the ‘suspicious thing’. The radiologist is guided in real time by the ultrasound – your breast is displayed on the high resolution screen, magnified about three times for better clarity. The doctor inserts the needle right to the point where the ‘thing’ is and starts the process. The whole event takes less than 10 minutes, prep about 15 minutes.

My radiologist was excellent. She put lots of freezing in, and for the first three I didn’t feel a thing. She angled the monitor screen so I could follow along (for those who don’t want to see, they put it the other way). So far so good. She counted down each time before she hit the trigger to grab another pieced: three, two, one click. On the last one, none of us were expecting anything as I’d felt nothing – and I mean nothing – for the first three. But this one must have hit a nerve and I yelped involuntarily. Yeeeouuuchhh!!! I managed not to say a bad word, however I did not manage to not cry. Tears flowed quite unexpectedly. It freakin hurt. It was over in seconds, and for good measure the radiologist quickly put in more freezing. She was more upset than I was – she prided herself on inflicting no pain, and explained they can’t see nerves on the ultrasound.

peasI’d been told by a work colleague who’d been through this exact same thing a couple of months ago that they give you a boob-sized frozen ice pack to put on the biopsy site after. I was given a zip-lock snack size bag of frozen peas. I kid you not. The clinic explained that was the most efficient and effective thing. The bag was malleable, you could refreeze it, and it fit nicely inside your bra. I’ll never look at peas the same way again, after an afternoon of 20 min on/20 min off bags of frozen peas on my boob.

More waiting for the results. That was a Tuesday morning. Results expected in a couple of days – just as the bruises were in full black and blue display.

As I was leaving, the radiologist asked me if I had a good relationship with my GP. I do, I said. She suggested, strongly, that I insist the ‘suspicious lump’ be removed, regardless of the pathology result. She suggested, strongly, that I call my doctor the next day and insist he make the appointment to have it removed. I took her advice. Regardless of what it was, I wanted it out. Now I know that she had already deduced the pathology outcome, and was advising me to book the appointment with a surgeon ASAP so I’d be at the front of the line as soon as possible. Smart woman, and I’m grateful she shared her opinion with me. I share this because you might be in the same position some time – if a specialist goes out of their way to step over a boundary to share something with you, it might be a good idea to think long and hard about following that advice.

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