About two and a half weeks ago my mom had a breast needle biopsy to check an area that had changed suspiciously in two subsequent mammograms. The biopsy came back with a diagnosis of an "atypical ductal hyperplasia."
After talking with our resident pathophysiologist (it's convenient working at a college with a good human anatomy and physiology group), I've learned that atypical ductal hyperplasias fall into a category known as fibrocystic changes, meaning changes in the breast that produce lumps, yet are not full-blown cancerous growths. Some fibrocystic changes are associated with an increased risk of cancer (they're pre-cancerous, if you will), while others aren't. Unfortunately, it looks like atypical hyperplasias are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in the future, and, based on what my mom has been told, sometimes atypical hyperplasias are even found around cancerous tissue.
My mom had a consultation with a surgeon this past Thursday, and he scheduled her for a full biopsy (essentially a lumpectomy) Tuesday. The quick timeline took us both by surprise, though it seems like a good idea.
My mom lives alone near Denver, and thus I'm going to be flying there on Monday to be with her during and after the procedure. While the operation sounds like it should be routine, I'm planning on staying the entire week just in case (and so I can be there when the tissue test results come in). Being that we've only got two weeks left in the semester, this is not an ideal time to be away from my classes (in fact, it's a crazy time to take a week off). However, I suspect my students can somehow manage without me1.
From stats that my mom was given, no evidence of cancer is found about 85% of the time atypical hyperplasias are excised. Funny how statistics are not nearly as comforting as one wants them to be.
1 Though I will be pre-recording my lecture and distributing it online, so my students can still get their daily dose of Prof. Radagast, if they so desire.