Friday, April 28, 2017

Biopsy Result: No Cancer

It's all part of the cancer dance: biopsies that are positive for cancer cells and biopsies that are negative.

I got a call from my doctor this morning: "Good news: there was no cancer found in your biopsy.  The calcifications we saw in your mammogram were caused by columnar cell change and fibrosis."

I thanked her, and she told me to come back in six months, not a year, for another mammogram of the right breast only.

We pause here for a moment of gratitude dedicated to the Creator and to the incredibly complex universe of atoms, molecules, cells, and organisms that She caused to be.

I'm a free person again: no lumpectomy, no change in my status as a survivor.  I still have a 1-in-10 chance of the cancer found three years ago metastasizing.  If this biopsy had found cancer, I think my odds for long-term survival would have gone down.

The next step, of course, was an internet search:  what is columnar cell change?  And what is fibrosis in a breast?

And of course, columnar cell lesions of the breast can later develop into cancer.

Here's a discussion of columnar cell lesions from :

Columnar cells are epithelial cells which have an elongated shape with a height about 4 times the width. Columnar cells are a normal part of functional breast ducts and TDLU’s, but sometimes they develop in unusual ways, or grow more rapidly than one would expect.
But if a women and a physician are talking about columnar cell lesions at all, in all likelihood following a breast cancer screening mammogram and subsequent microscopic analysis of a fine needle aspiration tissue sample, it means that there is either absolutely nothing to worry about, or if there is anything potentially worrisome, it has been identified at the earliest possible stage, in fact, too early to even warrant further investigation let alone treatment.
And, if by chance a columnar cell lesion were after some time to develop into something resembling ductal carcinoma in situ, it would be picked up and treated before developing into anything serious.
What I had before, in the left breast, was invasive ductal carcinoma (cancer of a milk duct that has grown a little beyond the duct).  In situ means still in place, inside the duct.

columnar cell co·lum·nar cell (kə-lŭm'nər) 
A cell, usually epithelial, that is tall, narrow, and somewhat cylindrical.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
  • Epithelial tissue is composed of cells laid together in sheets with the cells tightly connected to one another. Epithelial layers are avascular, but innervated.
  • Epithelial cells have two surfaces that differ in both structure and function.
  • Glands, such as exocrine and endocrine, are composed of epithelial tissue and classified based on how their secretions are released.

... an epithelial cell that is shaped like a column; some have cilia. Synonyms: columnar epithelial cell Types: spongioblast. any of various columnar epithelial cells in the central nervous system that develop into neuroglia. ... one of the closely packed cells forming the epithelium.

columnar cell - Dictionary Definition :

Fibrosis and Simple Cysts in the Breast

Many breast lumps turn out to be caused by fibrosis and/or cysts, which are non-cancerous (benign) changes in breast tissue that happen in many women at some time in their lives. These changes are sometimes called fibrocystic changes, and used to be called fibrocystic disease. 

Fibrosis and/or cysts are most common in women of childbearing age, but they can affect women of any age. They may be found in different parts of the breast and in both breasts at the same time.

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