It happened to me while I was showering, I thought maybe it was a good time to do a quick boob check, as it had been many months since I had last groped around for anything sinister lurking in my breast tissue.
Low and behold, I felt a lump, it was situated in my arm pit, up against my rib cage. I felt again, just to make sure, yip still there, I wasnít imagining it. So naturally my life flashed before my eyes, my pulse rate increased, my stomach lurched. The longer I thought of it, the more hysterical I became. I phoned my husband in a blind panic, he managed to bring me down and talk me through what I needed to do next.
I phoned my GP and made an appointment for that same day, I didnít think I would make it to the next day without having a nervous breakdown. They managed to squeeze me in at 5:00pm that afternoon, I had 4 hours to wait until I find out my fate. It was the longest 4 hours of my life.
I sent an SOS message to my friend, she came round in record time, itís amazing how a little lump can rally the troops so quickly. She did a great job distracting me from my impending doom, with some light conversation and gossip. But my thoughts kept returning to my lump, it felt like it was getting bigger now and taking over my entire breast, it actually felt sore too. The brain is such a powerful organ that it can manifest pain by simply thinking it and my brain was working overtime.
I survived the 4 hour wait and silently drove to the doctors rooms, my palms were sweating and yes my armpits too, which meant that my GP was going to have a grand old time feeling around for anything.
So there I was sitting on the bed in the doctors rooms, trying very hard to keep it together, I was told to remove my top and bra, my doctor proceeded to check my breasts, after a few minutes, she said that she wasnít finding anything unusual and can I show her where the lump was. So groped again and guided her to the area where I had felt it. There it was, she had found it, I held my breath knowing what was coming nextÖ.
ďItís a lymph node, nothing seriousĒ
Oh, ok, are you sure, I said, a little bit taken back by her nonchalance, considering the last 4 hours I had endured.
She was absolutely certain. Here's why-
Apparently lymph nodes feel different to cancerous growths. Lymph nodes are soft and can move around a bit under your skin, whereas cancerous growths are hard and there is very little movement as they attach themselves to the pectoral muscle. My lymph node was smaller than a pea, so there was no problem with the node itself, if it had been bigger, than there could be cause for concern, but my doctor was a 100% sure that I was not in any danger of keeling over in the foreseeable future.
She did however tell me of another case, where a women who had recently given birth and was breast feeding at the time, had found a lump in her breast, assuming that it was just a swollen milk duct had ignored it. Four months later she had finally got it seen to and it turned out to be a very aggressive cancer.
I left the doctors rooms feeling lighter, relieved, and appreciative of the time I still have, to live my life. Yes it was a false alarm, but it could so nearly not have been and for many women hasnít been.
This is what I have learnt-
- You are the first line of defence, check your breasts regularly, at least once a month at the same time every month, start with your breast and work your way up into your arm pit.
- Cancer cells are hard and rigid within the breast, knowing what to feel for, will help with early detection and in my case ruling out a benign node.
- If you find anything unusual, donít wait, even if it ends up being a lymph node, you still need to get it checked out by a medical professional.
- If you are under 40 years of age, you should still have a regular breast screening. Doctors can do a manual breast check. If you are paranoid like I am, you can have an annual ultrasound as well. Apparently you canít have mammograms under 40 as the breast tissue is too dense, ultrasounds are recommended.
- If you are over 40 years of age, go for regular mammograms, there are no excuses here.
Be aware, be proactive and donít leave it for another day, get your breasts checked.