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“The mammogram that saved my life”: these three women overcame breast cancer thanks to an image

Anabel, Mari Paz and Mari Angeles They wait in the shade, protecting themselves from the sun and with serene faces in front of an avenue full of traffic and horns blaring non-stop that seem not to suit them. Time on your watch seems to pass differently. They don’t know each other yet, but they have many things in common. All three have survived breast cancer and all three owe this second part of the game to the small-big decision to have a mammogram on time. Furthermore, all three share a radiologist: Dr. Silvia Pérez Rodrigo.

Although it may seem incredible, it is not an isolated case, the doctor warns. Nor did she go to the consultations alone. “My husband was then stationed in Almería, in La Legión, and when I told him, he told me that he was leaving his post and coming to Madrid. But I didn’t want to because my concern would have been greater. I told myself that I had to normalize everything, no matter how afraid I was.“.

His intervention was simple, he went home immediately and recovered almost instantly. But his ordeal was more psychological and had a recurring protagonist, fear. “Some tears fell in my consultation but it was because of fear, I was very afraid. And I still come with a lot of fear to the check-ups. I haven’t felt anything at all. I didn’t know I had it, it didn’t mean anything that they took it away from me. I “What it meant in my life was panic, fear.” Mari Paz repeats over and over again.

“Some tears fell but it was because of fear, I had a lot. And I still come back with a lot of fear for the check-ups”

Dr. Pérez warns that cases like Mari Paz’s are the perfect example that give complete meaning to phrases that may seem like empty slogans but are full of life, like that of “reviews are essential to avoid the disease itself but also to avoid more aggressive treatments.

“Treatments are being increasingly de-escalated to avoid unnecessary chemotherapies, unnecessary surgeries. In fact, the same thing happens with genomic platforms: they assess in each case whether the patient needs to receive chemotherapy or not based on the risk. As I always say, there is no “It’s just about living, but also about living better,” warns Silvia.

Mari Ángeles, breast cancer survivor.

Esteban Palazuelos

Mari Ángeles (73 years old) – Retired

Mari Ángeles is a life saved, literally, by a mammogram. This retiree was 68 years old when, during a check-up, they saw that she had “something” in her left breast that “had gone from Bi-rads®2, which is benign, to Bi-rads®3, which is possibly benign.” Her gynecologist ordered her to check it after six months and, if necessary, biopsy it.

It was December, “it’s going to be five years now,” and she wanted to have a mammogram before Christmas to “get it out of the way,” so she made an appointment at the MD Anderson Center where they prescribed a biopsy. “And there I met my friend Dr. Pérez Rodrigo, my angel”he assures.

The curious thing is that it is the voice of that angel that sets a date at the beginning of her process, which Mari Ángeles does not have. pointed not in December but in January, when the phone rang.

“Silvia told me that a biopsy had to be done by tomosynthesis and not all hospitals had that device at that time. In fact, my husband called the clinic in Pamplona and there was none. Luckily, her father, who is another angel in my life , works at La Milagrosa, where they were able to do it. Of course, in the meantime, the doctor asked me for a breast MRI. I had never had a breast MRI, plus my shoulder was bad, I couldn’t extend it… but those images saved my life.“.

Mari Ángeles calmly narrates, but with the weight of fortune in the back of her throat, that two days after the MRI, on January 9, which she does have recorded in her vital memory, Silvia called her to tell her that she already had the results. : “‘We found a carcinoma in the right breast,’ he told me. And I replied: ‘No excuse, where they had seen something was on the left’… on the right they had never seen anything.’ Well, we had to biopsy both.”

“He sent me a breast MRI. I had never had one before but those images saved my life”

Indeed, the one in the left breast was not a malignant lesion and in the right one, there was an infiltrating ductal carcinoma. “I thought something was happening to me, thinking it could be a metastasis, two different types of tumor… I didn’t know. That same afternoon they did the mammogram, the ultrasound and the biopsy of the right breast. Everything was caught on time and I They operated to remove it. Luckily, the sentinel nodes were not affected and they only gave me radiotherapy. But I have always asked myself the same question since then, what would have happened without that resonance? Well, maybe it would have had a metastasis and you know“, he says as if it were a confession that is still spinning in his head. Every step, every decision, every call… continue to resonate to remind him of his luck.

Silvia Pérez explains that “in her case, the lesion in the left breast was visible on the mammogram: it was like a distortion that in dense breasts the tissue overlaps with the lesion. So for the biopsy it is better by tomosynthesis. But we think that Meanwhile, we could do an MRI and the discovery of the right breast was coincidental. A nodule that was positive. It was a luminal tumor, which is hormonal, and with radiotherapy and hormone therapy it does not need chemo afterwards.”

Breast MRI is a technique that began to be implemented not many years ago to clarify cases of dense, young breasts, or where the lesion is not clearly visible. In this case, the image, many times, It is essential to catch breast cancer in time. “I had never had an MRI in my life, nor had I ever heard that test. I already thought that the injury I had must be very bad and that’s why they sent me an MRI,” says Mari Paz, while listening to the story of Mari Ángeles.

This retiree was accompanied throughout the entire process by her husband and by almost generational endurance. “I was terrified, but this is a serious thing and you have to get over it and you can’t complain every day. If something is going to save your life, you do it and that’s it.. Now I do mammograms and there are times when I think I’m going to get dizzy from the pain, but they are done and that’s it,” she summarizes.

Beneath the suffering and fear, Mari Ángeles also talks about the hope that numbers give, those little sticks that are usually cold but that, in these cases, become the best balm for the soul: “You accept this type of cancer better “Because 90% of women are saved, that does have to be caught in time. But not all women have the same opportunities to have MRIs, digital mammograms, more exhaustive follow-up… and that must be said too.” .

Mari Ángeles, Anabel and Mari Paz, along with Dr. Silvia Pérez Rodrigo, the second from the right.

Esteban Palazuelos

I have cancer, and now what do I do?

They all talk about the dread with which they lived that first diagnosis. It is not easy to make room for the disease when, in addition, in none of the three cases there are previous symptoms with which your body alerts you that something is wrong..

“The worst moments are especially at the beginning, until you assimilate the issue of chemo, when you lose your hair… We see patients, even very young, who perhaps have small children and do not tell the family, no They know how to do it. And they go through several appointments and they haven’t dared. You have to tell it, because they are going to see that your hair is falling out, that you are sick, and the patient needs to be taken care of, she has to allow herself to have bad moments… Above all, what I tell them is to stop pretending that they are fine, it is a very hard double job,” says Silvia Pérez.

“My friends accompanied me when I shaved my hair. It’s a pain. Then once you see yourself bald, you don’t care, and you even laugh, but at first…”, snorts Anabel, the only one of the three who underwent the complete process. She is very clear: “You cannot abandon yourself to fear or laziness. The review schedule must be strictly adhered to. “Mammography saves your life and fear paralyzes you.”

Professional associations are already asking to increase screening at age 40. The EU has approved that it starts at age 45, while in Spain there are communities, such as Madrid, that do not start it until age 50.

“From the age of 40 you have to have a mammogram every year. We are detecting many cancers, even in the first mammogram, at the age of 40, and if you don’t see it there, by the time you get to the consultation it is already too late. Of course, you have to go with the peace of mind that other complementary tests may be needed because in that range false positives occur but nothing happens,” he concludes.

Anabel, Mari Paz and Mari Ángeles have shown that they know how to fight against fear and even overcome it at times. but doctors highlight the enormous capacity for suffering that women have and that it is not always positive because it makes them arrive late for a consultation or make them bear the illness alone, as if not telling it would make nothing change.

In fact, at the end of the talk with these three women, who speak loud and clear about breast cancer, one of them meets, by chance, a co-worker in the hospital. The woman is in shock. They have just ordered more tests because they suspect that she may have breast cancer.

Our survivor tells her to be calm, that if she needs anything, to talk, to call her. That she is in good hands… She, nervous, nods. She gives the impression that she has not heard anything, not a single one of her words… In her head there are too many emotions fighting each other to pay attention to the rationality of the data or the experience.

When he is already leaving with an automatic “okay, okay, thank you” in his mouth, He turns around and only asks one thing of our survivor. “Please don’t say anything. She doesn’t know, not even my family.”

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