Breast density: Controlling the uncontrollable

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Breast cancer is a topic 6 This Morning anchor Chivon Kloepfer knows all too well after having lost several family members to it.

In this special story, she walks us through her yearly routine and has more on why it’s so important to know your risks.

Chivon: Every day at least once a day, I think about breast cancer. Usually it’s trying to mentally prepare for the chance that I may one day hear those words: ‘you have breast cancer.

It started when I was in high school when I watched my mom fight for three years before eventually losing her battle.

A few years later, my aunt on my dad’s side lost her fight as well.

I’ve been nervous ever since, but decided to do something about it.

So now every year I come to the MSU Women’s Imaging Center.

“Take your left hand and hold onto the bar. Okay good.”

First I go in for my yearly mammogram.

“And hold your breath. Don’t breathe. And breathe and step back. Now we’re gonna do the same position on the left.”

The entire exam takes about 15 minutes.

“How are you doing, okay?”

Chivon: “Okay, this one is a little bit…”
“Snug?”
Chivon: “A little bit snugger.”
“Okay, chin up please.”

I knew because of my family history that my risk for breast cancer was higher.

What I didn’t know until this exam is that I also have dense breast tissue which increases my risk even more.

“Your breast tissue would be considered heterogeneously dense. And what we’re looking at is the white tissue is the dense tissue, the dark tissue over here is the fatty tissue,” said Dr. David R. Anderson M.D., MSU Dept. of Radiology.

There are four categories: fatty, scattered, heterogeneously dense and extremely dense.

Being considered “heterogeneously dense” or “extremely dense” means that I’ll be getting a letter in the mail, informing me of the condition and that I might want to talk to my doctor about additional testing.

Basically the denser the tissue, the easier it is for breast cancer tumors to hide in a mammogram.

“We’re looking for calcifications, we’re looking for clusters or groups of calcifications and there is one here. Another little while one here. But it’s not a cluster, so we’re not really concerned about that,” said Dr. Anderson.

Chivon: “But I can see why it would be easy to hide in all that white density.”

Thankfully Dr. Anderson didn’t find anything concerning on my mammo.

But I wasn’t done yet.

Because of my family history, again and dense breasts, my doctors recommended I stop by here next to the MSU Department of Radiology for a breast MRI.

“You’re going to hear the knocking noise and it will last about a minute.”

They wouldn’t let me record the actual process, but we all think it’s important to show you what I went through.

The machine looks and sounds a little intimidating, but it’s absolutely pain free aside from having an IV put in beforehand.

“During this scan, you’re going to feel the contrast being injected into your arm. It might feel cool, but other than that, you shouldn’t feel anything. This is your last scan. It’s about seven minutes.”

The MRI lasts a little longer than the mammogram, about 25 minutes of lying very, very still.

My last stop, a quick checkup and meeting with my other doctor to discuss my results, and any other concerns I may have.

“Any breast lumps, skin changes, nipple discharge or anything like that?” asked Dr. Mary Smania, MSU Dept. of Surgery.

Nope.

And after a brief breast exam. some nutritional advice and another explanation as to my breast density, I was done.

The best part of the whole experience? I felt good. At ease, in control, a rarity when it comes to me and thinking about breast cancer.

I was also reminded of the importance of being positive, passionate and proactive when it comes to my breast health.

And ladies, I really hope you are too.

 

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