How 3D Mammography Identifies Breast Lumps

By Christine Mack, Development Officer

When Joyce Paputza was diagnosed with cancer, her first thoughts weren’t what you might expect. Most people experience fear and sadness. For Joyce, her first reaction was one of faith and positivity.

“I knew from the beginning that I would be okay,” she said. “I trusted in God and in the people here at Firelands to take care of me.” Joyce was diagnosed in June 2016, but her story started months before that.

In February 2016, the retired mother of three felt a breast lump on the left side. At first, she didn’t think much of it. She had previously been diagnosed with breast cysts and she knew that a cyst often felt like a breast lump. But, as the months went by, she realized this breast lump felt different.

“It was shooting pain throughout my breast,” she explained. “I knew that wasn’t good.”

She mentioned the breast lump to her family practice physician in May and received an order for a mammogram. Joyce came to the Center for Breast Care at Firelands Regional Medical Center and elected to undergo a 3D mammogram.

The 3D mammogram revealed an abnormality and Joyce was scheduled for a breast lump biopsy with Fredric Itzkowitz, DO.

breast cancer diagnosis

“I didn’t really worry because I believe in giving everything to God. He would take care of it,” she said. “But when I was waiting to go under anesthetic, I became a little bit anxious. I looked up from my bed and saw Dr. Itzkowitz standing near me talking to some other men. I put my hand out and he gently squeezed my hand. That’s the last thing I remember before waking up.”

Joyce’s breast lump biopsy revealed she had Stage II breast cancer in her left breast. She never wanted to hear the word “cancer”, but she soon found that many of her caregivers at Firelands Regional Medical Center had personal stories of triumph over the same disease.

“So many of the women here told me they were breast cancer survivors,” she said. “I knew I was in the right place and with the right people. Their stories and the care they have given me made a big difference in my treatment.”

Joyce beams when she talks about the team at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center, who helped her endure sixteen sessions of radiation to combat her breast lump tumor.

“Mary and Jason (and the rest of the staff) are incredibly kind and were so willing to do anything to make me more comfortable during my treatments. It truly felt like we were all one big family,” she recalled.

Joyce was relieved to learn she did not have to undergo chemotherapy treatments to fight her breast lump tumor, and has been surprised by how healthy she has felt all along.

“Sometimes I feel guilty, but I really have felt great from the very beginning,” she said. “I’ve maintained a positive outlook. I believed from the beginning I was going to be okay.”

Joyce is so appreciative of the care she received and of the availability of 3D mammography at Firelands that she adamantly encourages her friends and family to undergo this life-saving screening.

“My last mammogram was only a year prior to my diagnosis,” she said. “Even though I felt a breast lump, the 3D mammogram helped the doctors to diagnose me at an earlier stage than with regular mammography. When my health comes up in conversation, I tell people that a mammogram can be a lifesaver, with or without a breast lump. It may have been for me and it may be for you, too.”

Explore more about how the 3D mammography services at the Firelands Center for Breast Care can detect a breast lump today.

How to Check for a Breast Lump

There are five steps to performing a breast self exam, and your OB/GYN can review these steps with you if you have any questions. Make sure to conduct a breast self exam regularly, as this is a good way to detect something suspicious early.

Step 1: Stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips, then examine your breasts. Look for dimples, indentations, bulging of the skin, or other strange marks. Also look too see if your nipples have changed position or pushed in (rather than out). Lastly, check for redness, swelling, rashes, or tenderness.

Step 2: Raise your arms and look for the same changes mentioned in step one.

Step 3: Look for any signs of fluid coming out of the nipple.

Step 4: Lie down, and feel your breasts using your opposite hand (right hand for left breast, left hand for right breast). Use the first few finger pads on your hand, keeping your fingers flat and pushed together. Use a circular motion about the size of a quarter. Cover the entire breast from top to bottom and side to side. Follow a pattern to be sure you cover the entire breast. 

Step 5: Another tip is to stand in the shower and follow the same pattern as step four above, but with wet, soapy hands. Many women say this allows them to feel more within the breast. 

Again, if you have any questions about how to perform a breast self exam, talk to your doctor, who can provide more clarification.