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What Happens After You Find a Lump on Your Breast

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

I know a lot of women avoid self-examining their breasts because they fear finding a lump. I understand the feeling as I felt the same way. I would search for lumps once in a while under the shower and was always relieved when I didn’t find anything. A few months ago this changed — and it was actually a good experience in the end. Let me explain why and also why you shouldn’t be scared of examining your breasts.

It was the first of August 2020. I remember it specifically because it is a national holiday in Switzerland. It was Saturday and it was going to be one of the hottest days this year. My husband and I didn’t have anything planned for that day because of COVID-19. Usually you go see family and celebrate with them. I had a slow start to the day and eventually went downstairs to clean up my bunny’s enclosure. I was about to kneel down on the floor when my knee touched my left breast and I felt a sudden sharp pain. I wasn’t immediately concerned as I get painful sensations in my breasts as a symptom of PMS. So I didn’t think anything of it.

When I went upstairs to take a shower I felt the pain again while taking my clothes off. This time I started to pay more attention to it. I wasn’t in the phase of my cycle when I get PMS so this pain was unusual. I tried to locate the exact spot where the pain was coming from and was completely shocked when I felt a coin sized hard lump on the upside of my left breast. I made my husband feel it too and he was sure that lump had never been there before. I was scared. I always thought that finding a lump can only mean it is going to be cancer.

I called my gynaecologist on Monday and got an appointment for the following day. It’s important to act fast when you find something suspicious. She asked me about my symptoms, examined my breast and did an ultrasound. Her assessment was that the lump was benign and she suspected a fat tissue necrosis. This can happen when the fat tissue in the breast gets injured somehow and the body starts to break it down. It creates a kind of bubble and this can get inflamed. Hence the pain I was feeling. My doctor sent me to additional tests just to make sure and completely rule out anything malignant.

One week later I had an appointment at a specialized breast clinic. I was scared because I was going to have a mammogram and a possible biopsy where the doctor would take a little bit of tissue out of the lump and send it to a lab. I had never had any of these tests done before and didn’t know what to expect. I had been told that I wasn’t allowed to use deodorant, body lotion or sunscreen before the mammogram as it can create distortions on the pictures. They take two x-ray pictures of each breast and the breast has to be squeezed flat. But it honestly didn’t really hurt. I was done in under 10 minutes. The next step was the ultrasound. The doctor was very diligent and it took about 45 minutes. She examined every inch of both breasts and I was surprised that she found quite a lot of additional lumps. She confirmed my gynaecologist’s diagnosis of the fat tissue necrosis. But she also found fibroadenomas in both breasts as well as a cyst. There was no need for a biopsy as the lumps presented themselves clearly as benign on the ultrasound.

After the ultrasound the doctor took some time to explain what was going on inside my breast. She told me most women will find a lump sometime in their lives. Most lumps are benign. So, you generally have a higher chance of it not being cancer. Many lumps, like mine, are due to hormonal imbalances. I have an estrogen dominance and too little progesterone. She also told me that my existing lumps don’t increase my likelihood for cancer, but that I need to get my hormones balanced as excess estrogen is a risk factor for cancer. I also thought that most women with breast cancer have also had female relatives with cancer, but that’s not true. Just because there are no cases of breast cancer in your family so far doesn’t mean you’re safe.

I need to get the fibroadenomas checked once a year at my gynaecologists’s office. But that’s it. If I had taken self-examinations more seriously I could have prevented a lot of stress for myself. I was so worried what the doctors may find and I was so scared of the tests. It’s always better to proactively take control of your health and it’s better to know what’s going on. I’m so glad I went to get the lump checked out. Now I know what happens when you find something and that it doesn’t have to be bad.

So please do a self-examination once a month and talk to your gynaecologist about it.

Getty image via spukkato

Originally published: October 19, 2020
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