Not happy Friday

I’m 37 years old, felt a lump, got a biopsy. The Dr called me at 3:40pm on Friday afternoon that I am positive for invasive ductus carcinoma. I need a surgical consultation. So now I have to wait until Monday as I am ready to chop my breast off myself. They said it has a very high Nottingham score, but I don’t know how that correlates into staging. Anyone have advice?

Hi Rachel

I’m so sorry to hear your news. Just remember it’s all doable and look after your emotional health immediately, so it becomes a routine part of your life. People find meditation, mindfulness, running, yoga, all sorts of different ways to help them deal with the inevitable stress  and anxiety that go with this diagnosis.

I’m afraid you are in for a lot of waiting as they now gather data on your unique breast cancer, starting with surgery. I’m with you on wanting to chop you breast off yourself. In fact, if the surgeon is able to remove all infected tissue, you will be cancer-free following your mastectomy. But that’s not enough, There will be several adjuvant therapies you may have to have, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy (depending on your tumour details). There also may be further surgery unless they do a sentinel node biopsy first. This is a punch biopsy in your armpit, more of a surprise than painful. In this case, if this shows a spread of the cancer to the lymph nodes, you may have partial or full axillary clearance. However, if it HAS spread to the nodes, it means the nodes have done their job and are holding onto the rogue cancer cells! Spread elsewhere is unlikely but they will check this with a CT scan before you start other treatments. The point is, they want to make sure you stay cancer-free.

I’m surprised they mentioned your Nottingham score. It’s a very old prediction score that the surgeon establishes and it helps inform your prognosis and treatment. I made the mistake of looking mine up after I’d finished treatment and had a dicky fit. It needed my very wise breast care nurse to put it into context - that once adjuvant therapies begin, the score is irrelevant. So try not to worry about it unless your consultant mentions it to you again.

The fact that you have ductal breast cancer is encouraging. It doesn’t spread as fast as, say, lobular bc and is more easily treatable. However, I feel I should warn you that that doesn’t mean you’re in for an easy ride. It just means there are many more treatments available for the oncologist to choose from.

This all sounds doom and gloom. It’s not. It’s life-saving and, for that reason, should be welcome news. Treatment is sometimes harsh but we all respond differently. Please don’t start googling everything and assuming that’s how it will be for you. That’s the road to disaster. The fact is, many women sail through treatment and it goes unrecorded. Usually it’s those with problems who post in forums like this. We are an amazing group of women, with different experiences (I for instance had two tumours, one ductal, one lobular; one hormonal, one not). We’re backed up by wonderful community champions and by an excellent team of nurses at the end of the phone when you need them. This isn’t hyperbole btw.

I wish you well on Monday. The speed is an excellent service!! Expect more tests, maybe ultrasound, maybe the biopsy - it all depends on what the consultant wants to know. Write down your questions. You should be now be able to take someone in with you - give them a copy of your questions and ask them to note the answers because you won’t remember all of it. I just went through it all in a haze - but that suited me. Some people need to know all the details to feel in control, I just drifted through, playing ostrich, doing as I was told. I found I worried less.

All the best

Jan x