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It Could Have Been Cancer: The Necessity of Routine Mammograms

Annual Mammogram

When a routine mammogram discovered abnormal tissue, Simone Courso was asked to meet Dr.Wichai. She was worried, but a biopsy revealed that there was no cause for concern. An annual breast examination with Dr. Wichai is now a permanent fixture on her calendar.

I am from France and my husband is American-Swiss. We moved to Thailand in 1990 with our children. Since then, I’ve been working in international schools in Bangkok and Hong Kong. We always went to Samitivej for our health check-ups and treatments.

I was healthy and did not have any health problems. All the same, I went for regular check-ups at Samitivej because our insurance offered this facility. During one of these check-ups, in 2006 to be precise, the mammogram showed some abnormalities. My gynecologist informed me that the mammogram showed some abnormal tissue in one of my breasts and advised me to see Dr. Wichai. Whenever someone talks to you about changing cells or abnormalities in tissue, you start to worry.

This was 8 years ago, and I don’t remember all the details. But I know that I was quite tense and worried. There was no history of breast cancer in my family, but two of my uncles had died of cancer. So, cancer is an upsetting possibility. When I met with Dr. Wichai, he suggested a biopsy. He made it clear that it was not a treatment of cancer, but recommended that I should get a biopsy and see if the changing cells are problematic or not. I agreed to go ahead with the biopsy and when the results eventually showed that I did not have cancer, I was very very glad that I had opted for the procedure.

I remember that in addition to mammograms and ultrasounds, there were some other tests. Dr. Wichai also explained the procedure he wanted to conduct. It was a needle localization biopsy. While I cannot remember the details that Dr. Wichai shared with me at the time, I do recollect that he made me feel like the biopsy was not a major intervention. He explained to me how he would operate, but he made it sound like a routine exercise. I know now that it was not routine at all, but at that point, it was very reassuring to hear.

I checked into Samitivej and when I went down to prepare for the biopsy, I was asked to use a wheelchair although I felt that I could have walked down myself. That was a little upsetting on that day because I thought I was going in for a very simple intervention and yet the hospital staff treated me like it was a very serious procedure. Looking back, I can appreciate that the staff at Samitivej probably take every procedure seriously, regardless of its complexity, and this is a commendable attitude. However, at that time I was a little worried. As my husband was out of town, my daughter came with me to the hospital, and it was good to have her by my side.

The preparation for the needle biopsy was also a little disturbing. To allow the needle used in the biopsy to be inserted, you have to assume a position that is very awkward. However, the process was conducted in a very professional manner and the biopsy itself went well. I think that I spent the night at the hospital and went home the next day.

I was very fortunate that the abnormality detected by the mammogram was not cancerous in my case. About a week later, I moved to Hong Kong as per my schedule. Dr. Wichai and others discussed post-procedural care with me in detail. I was also told to have a mammogram once a year and to visit Dr. Wichai just as often.

Today, I feel very good and there are no residual effects of the procedure. I make it a point to examine my breasts on a more or less regular basis. I tell many women to conduct breast self-examinations once a month. I also advise them to have regular hospital check-ups, beginning as early as 30 years of age. I am 65 now.

I am very diligent with my annual check-ups. I like the concept of early detection and effective treatment and that is possible only with regular screening. I continue to have a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a consultation with Dr. Wichai once a year. His experience in attending to breast cancer patients means that he has developed great knowledge and intuition in administering breast examinations. A mammogram is efficient but might not catch all abnormalities. Therefore, a doctor’s expertise and skill can prove to be critical in detecting breast cancer.

I was very happy dealing with Dr.Wichai and his nursing staff. I have known them for nearly eight years now. I feel that I can trust Dr. Wichai. I have always found the doctor’s professionalism and gentle personality very reassuring.

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