Deja Vu – more tests. This time, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image). I have a metal implant in my hip after my resurfacing seven years ago. Magnets and metals don’t play well together. One of the questions they ask you on the form (was this form number 18 or 19 – I’d lost count at this point – note for the patient experience!) is about metal – in your teeth, body, eye etc. You have to remove all earrings, studs etc. There was no way to remove my metal implant.
I called my hip surgeon to ask about the safety of an MRI. I never got to talk to him, but his assistant left a message saying it would be fine, but to tell the MRI technicians that they should use metal suppression.
My big fear when I show up for the MRI is not that they will find cancer in my other breast, but that my hip implant will come flying out*. As I’m filling in the form, I write in capital letters METAL HIP IMPLANT – METAL SUPPRESSION. The form did not ask for an ‘in case of emergency’ contact, but I put one down anyway. I figured if I was going to die on that exam table when my metal hip implant came flying out in that giant magnet, someone should know. Then I took a picture of the completed form with the metal part noted and messaged it to my friend. Just in case.
Something in me knew I was being an idiot, so I made sure I told the technicians I knew I was being an idiot. I told the techs that I had a metal implant and that my surgeon said to use metal suppression. They told me ‘don’t worry – we’re doing your breasts, that’s far enough from your hip.’ Hmm, my irrational brain said – in my book, my hips are not that far from my boobs, at least when it comes to giant magnets pulling metals out of flesh. I said it was ok to laugh at me, and that I knew I was going to be one of the stories on Rounds the next day, but that I really wanted to make sure that the whole metal suppression thing would be put in place. They just nodded. I know they were laughing inside. And that was ok. (See the note below for what metal suppression really is)
The MRI to examine your beasts means you have to lie face down, with your breasts hanging down on either side of a centre support, into a hollow pocket, lightly squeezed between two paddles similar to a mammogram. And not move. Kind of like a massage table, but with two little holes for the girls. Oh, and what they didn’t say – they shoot you full of dye through an IV. As the nurse who inserted the IV commented when I said they’d not said anything about that, “small mercies – ignorance is bliss, huh?”
Now more waiting for test results. This didn’t take long – by the end of the day I got a call asking if I could come in for an ultrasound the next afternoon. Yikes – having already been down that route, I knew what that meant. They saw something and now wanted to confirm with ultrasound.
The diagnostic ultrasound is straightforward, and, again, the tech lets me watch. I don’t know what I’m looking at, but I can see a small black dot on the screen. I think, not good. The radiologist comes in after the tech does the first batch of images and the radiologist has another look. She says to me that she doesn’t see anything that she feels we need to worry about immediately.That black dot is a cyst (water/liquid). Cancer, I learn, generally shows up as white or grey blobs. The radiologist lets me go, and says on her way out the door that she’s pretty sure there will be no biopsy and things are fine, but she’ll take another look and if she changed her mind she’d call. There’s no word, until 4:45 pm the next day, a Friday. Yes, a biopsy has been ordered.
Frozen Peas are The Girls’ Best Friend
Not just any biopsy – an MRI-guided biopsy. Sigh – another trip to the MRI. And this time, it was going to take a bigger bag of peas. I knew there was going to be a massive bruise from the upcoming biopsy. Another regime of 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off bags of frozen peas was in my immediate future. And this bag would have to be bigger than the last time – the needle will go right through my breast from one side to the other and take 12 samples. That’s a lot of damage to that flesh. Keep the peas coming.
* For a smart person working in healthcare, I don’t know much about the technology behind MRIs. Plus, I’ve since learned that titanium is not a ferrous metal and I had nothing to worry about. Metal suppression is only used when they need to MRI your hip itself – it’s a technique to account for the metal in the hip so it doesn’t cloud anything else the tech needs to see. It’s not, as I thought, something that makes sure your metal implant isn’t sucked out of your body. 🙂