Monday, December 13, 2010

La Mirada #17-Desolation

Print based on a pastel painting I made after my photo Medusa, 8 by 8 inches.

Over 99% of thyroid nodules are not cancer. Whew. Papillary tumors are the most common of all thyroid cancers (>70%). Cervical metastasis (spread to lymph nodes in the neck) are present in 50% of small tumors and in over 75% of the larger thyroid cancers. The numbers place me in a very very small statistical group. My tumor was 4,5 cm, I had 3 positive lymph nodes and had a 100 millicuries RAI, a standard dose. Standard RAI doses are effective for the majority of patients with thyroid cancer, who after being administered RAI get to have undetectable marker Tg. Guess what.

Within 9 months I had two cancers. Friends, and doctors, assured me, meaning well, that I would not have a second cancer in less than a year. Kind of isolating when you're worried. I tested negative for Cowden, a rare genetic syndrome combining thyroid and breast cancer, which would have put me at a higher risk for uterine cancer. What a relief.

In Belgium we have a high detection rate with mammogram screening. I wasn't even in the target age group. Mammograms can save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible. The key word is can. The imaging technique has its limitations. Sadly enough. Trouble started because I had felt a small hard lump in my left breast, size of a rice grain, exactly where one of my tumors was found .... The radiologist advised a biopsy, to be sure, after all, calcifications can be benign. Usually. I had three tumors in my breasts, different types left and right. What are those odds?

Doctors think statistically. Makes me think of the psychology diagnostics course I took. They teach you that if 75% of the population has brown eyes, you will be approached as having brown eyes. That's how it works. If you happen to have green eyes, tough. It's a problem, I think. It blinds doctors for the specific patient sitting in front of them, the woman whose breasts carry cancer ... It's tiring to be in a statistically small group as you are lumped into the norm that doesn't apply. Modern Experimental Science. Sad.

I'm thinking of all the women and men, whose cancer isn't detected early, who fall through the cancer cracks, through screening or otherwise. I could have been one of them. I guess I'm lucky. Sad.

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