"I found a lump"
"I found a lump". Those are the last words you want to hear your doctor say when you have your yearly physical. And truthfully, probably the last words you expect to hear your doctor say at your yearly physical. Especially when you're young, like I am (30). But many women, including myself, do hear those words. And they're scary. Our natural response to finding a lump in our breast is to automatically think "breast cancer" - especially if you have a family history of breast cancer, which I do. My grandma had triple negative breast cancer in her 60s, which puts me at a higher risk of developing breast cancer myself. (She's doing great now and has passed her 5 year remission point, by the way!)
If you're like me and you or your doctor find a lump in your breast, you will probably turn to the internet for information while awaiting your testing (ultrasound and/or mammogram). The internet is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you can find lots of great info in just seconds like the fact that a whopping 80% of breast lumps are benign (non cancerous). That's extremely reassuring. On the other hand, you're just as likely to find dire, scary information that may or may not have absolutely anything to do with your particular case. Anonymous sites on the internet aren't your physician, don't know your medical history, and haven't given you an exam. So I wanted to put up this blog post in the hopes that another woman googling "I found a lump in my breast" will see it and benefit from it.
My doctor found a lump in my right breast, but my left breast felt normal. The internet will tell you that most benign breast changes, such as cysts and fibrocystic breasts will occur in both breasts, and that breast cancer is more likely when you have a one-sided breast lump or change. Of course, that freaked me out - I had a one sided change, which all sites said is the more ominous sign. My doctor sent me for an ultrasound of both breasts and they couldn't find any lumps or tumors on the ultrasound. Instead, I have fibrocystic breast tissue, which I've learned is extremely common - over half of women will have fibrocystic breast changes. It's not harmful and does not increase the risk of developing breast cancer in the future. The technician warned me that in the future when I begin to have mammograms, they will always appear abnormal because the mammogram can't differentiate between the fibrous tissue and a tumor, so I will always need a followup ultrasound afterwards. I'm so glad she told me that because now I'll know not to worry - and if you have fibrocystic breast changes, now you know, too!
My one big takeaway from this experience is the importance of doing the monthly self breast exam. I will shamefully admit that I don't do the monthly exam. I know, I know - I'm horrible. And lazy. ;) But this was a bit of a wake-up call that I'm not too young to develop breast cancer (though it's not likely to develop it at this age), and really no one is. Also, it's important to know how your breasts feel NOW, before anything changes, so that you will know when there is a change. Now that I know what my "lump" feels like, I will be diligently doing my monthly self exams to make sure there are no non-normal (for ME) changes. So I am going to go ahead and beg you to please join me in doing this monthly exam. Breast cancer is much, much more treatable and survivable when caught in its earliest stages. Stage 1 breast cancer has a 100% 5 year survival rate (and likely much, much longer than 5 years, but 5 years is just what they base the studies on). Let that sink in for a moment ... ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. That's amazing. If every woman does a self exam every month and immediately reports any changes, gets a mammogram/ultrasound every single year as recommended by her doctor, and stays vigilant, how many more Stage 1 cancers would we detect? So please take that few minutes each month and do your exam. :) There's a cool printable shower card that shows you exactly how to do it. I know I will be printing it out, and I invite you to do so as well.
Also, I want to add that if you do find a lump - even if it's just on one side - don't panic. Yes, go straight to the doctor and get it checked out. But try not to worry too much until you get it tested - most breast changes are non cancerous.
I hope this helps at least one woman, and if you like my blog, stick around and follow me! :)
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies" Psalm 103:2-4