We of the male gender generally have a rather simplistic view of female breasts. (Some/most women may consider it a "juvenile" view in some/most/all men.) We may enjoy looking at breasts... in various states of dress or undress. We may want to touch them... or fantasize about that... or... or...
But I'm pretty sure that outside of those in the medical profession the vast majority of men don't really want to know how breasts are put together... about the plumbing inside of them.
Classify that in the "Too Much Information" category and stick it in that folder with all those other aspects of female biology about which we really have no clue.
I'm learning, though... all about lobules and ducts and lymph nodes and so much more. Not by choice. Two weeks ago I added a new term to my vocabulary: Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, a.k.a. DCIS. As a bonus, I learned the correct way to pronounce "In Situ" (at least, the way one doctor said it)... but that was really the only bonus I got that day.
My wife was diagnosed with very early stage DCIS in one breast. It appears to be "non-invasive" from the biopsy and at this point the good news is that there seems little danger of it being life-threatening. Today.
Cancer. My wife.
And so life was thrown into a chaotic holding pattern that will unfortunately continue for at least two more weeks until we meet with her next team of doctors up at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center to understand the next steps in her specific process... and when that will all occur. Meanwhile, they've sent us DVDs for what will surely be an über-exciting "date night"... and booklets that dive into deep detail. And of course, there's the glorious Internet... which is sometimes helpful... and sometimes NOT.
Along the way, I've also learned that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime and a hundred other stats that I didn't know.
I'm writing this in part because writing is what I do... it's how my brain works... it's how I deal with things. And also, if any of you wonder perhaps why I may not be as focused on some projects (like, oh, restarting VOIPSA, or helping launch the SIP Forum's IPv6 SIG) or as excited to jump into something new ... or why I'm not traveling to events much lately... my priorities have drastically changed a bit for this next while.
I'm also writing this to let my female friends and readers (and their male companions) know about the way in which my wife's breast cancer was found.
She didn't have a "lump". It did not show up on a mammogram... nor on a follow-up ultrasound of her breast. There is no family history of breast cancer. She has none of the other indicators for cancer. She's in fact in the best physical condition she's been in for years.
There was only one sign... and one that she didn't really think was significant.
She had an inverted nipple.
Instead of pointing outward as nipples usually do, this one started withdrawing in upon itself.
My wife just casually mentioned the change in her annual checkup a few months ago when the physician asked that standard question to which they probably don't expect an answer: "anything else you've noticed unusual?"
The physician thought it was probably nothing, too, but said it should be looked at... which led to several months of testing, a horrid course of super-strong antibiotics (to see if an infection was causing it) and eventually multiple MRI scans (including a "MRI-driven biopsy") where the cancer was detected and confirmed.
An inverted nipple.
That was it. The only sign. And one that could have been easily overlooked.
Since that time, naturally, we've found various articles that mention this as a potential symptom of breast cancer... but it was certainly one that neither of us, nor anyone we've mentioned it to yet, knew about.
So, should you (or your female companion if you are male) ever notice a change like this... get it checked out. It may be absolutely nothing. Or it may be something more serious.
Meanwhile, life here continues in a holding pattern while we wait to understand what lies ahead in her specific case...
Image credit: hygienematters on Flickr