Awareness and risk factors
I am glad I asked again about my lump
Lorrie's lump was ignored till she went to a second
In 1988 I found a small pea size lump above
my left breast, I went to a doctor who sent me for a mammogram.
On my return visit he stuck the x-ray up to the light and
said "it wasn't much of a lump, was it?". His attitude
made me feel like a hypochondriac, so I went away and forgot
Many months later, while at a different doctor
I asked her to have a look at this lump, by this time it was
visible through my shirt. I could tell by the look on her
face it was serious. A week later I underwent a radical mastectomy.
We know now, that when my breast was squashed in the first
test, it was moved up out of the picture. I wanted to kill
that first doctor.
Again in 1992 I found a lump, this time it was in my armpit,
again it was cancer, neither of these lumps were in the actual
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I never thought I would get breast cancer
at my age - I wouldn't have known without the mammogram
Margaret's diagnosis came as a big surprise - she didn't
feel a lump. She was 47 when diagnosed. She had a partial
mastectomy and lymph node clearance, followed by radiotherapy.
"I had a mammogram before I went on holidays to Europe.
When I came back my assistant told me that the clinic had
called just after I left to tell me the mammogram showed something
and I would need to have an ultrasound. I previously had cysts
show up and so I wasn't overly concerned. I went for the ultrasound
and found they hadn't booked me in. I had to book another
"At that appointment the technician spent a lot of time
going over and over the area where the lump was. Then she
started looking at some lines on the screen. Then a women
doctor came in and repeated the scan. I was pretty worried
by that time. They told me I would need to come back for a
biopsy- the report said- malignancy. I went back to my doctor
who immediately referred me to a surgeon she knew. I think
she got me in quickly because I was so upset at the way I
had been treated.
As it turned out, the surgeon was one of the top surgeons
in Sydney. He did a great job. The scar is almost invisible.
I never thought I would get breast cancer.
There is no cancer in my family. So it was a big surprise.
And the lump could not be felt, so without a regular mammogram,
the cancer would still be there and growing.
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It wasn't cancer but I'm glad I checked
In 1990, when she was around 22, Nicola was sharing a flat
with a girlfriend, with whom she was (and still is) very close.
One day whilst taking a shower, she discovered a hard, very
painful lump in her right breast, about the size of a large
I called my friend into the bathroom for her opinion on what
I had felt, which was odd as whilst we are close, inviting
her into the bathroom whilst I was naked was taking things
a little too far! The other odd thing was that I never usually
examined my breasts - it was purely an accidental discovery,
probably made more obvious due to the tenderness of the lump.
Natalie came into the bathroom, wondering what was wrong,
and on seeing my stricken face was instantly concerned. I
asked her to feel my right breast. She grimly confirmed that
she, too, could feel that sinister lump. I dutifully promised
to visit the doctor the next day.
Since I was living away from home, I had no regular GP. Instead,
I elected to go to a 24-hour, bulk-billing medical centre
to speak to someone about my lump. However, my first consultation
lasted no longer than 5 minutes...The doctor discussed the
issue, asked my age, and told me that this lump was probably
nothing and to go home and stop worrying. No breast exam.
No bedside manner. No anything.
But I wasn't worried. I'd done the right thing - I'd seen
a doctor, and they had told me to stop worrying - they should
know, so I did. I forgot about that lump for a couple of months.
What jolted me back into reality was my realisation one day
that a) this lump was still painful, in fact increasingly
so, and b) it had grown. So, I decided to find myself a doctor
who would take me seriously.
And so I searched. I went to a second GP, who told me the
same story, but did examine my breasts. By now, this lump
was incredibly tender to touch, so regardless of the outcome
I wanted someone to offer me some sort of relief. A third
GP examined my breasts and sent me off for a mammogram, which
was an...ahem....interesting experience. I am here to tell
you that young, firm breasts, 12B sized and a lump which is
tucked in between the base of the breast and the armpit do
not translate well onto a mammogram. Despite carefully detailing
the location of my lump to the mammographer, my mammogram
slides came out 100% clear of any lumps or irregularities.
In fact, this was no surprise to me as the mammogram squashed
only the tip of my little breasts between the plates and accordingly
the film showed only a portion of my breasts. I told the mammographer,
but she huffily assured me that she knew what she was doing.
So, I took my useless mammogram slides back to the GP, who
told me that there was no lump, and so no need to worry. My
protests seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Finally, with the lump in my breast now the size of a very
large grape, I went to a fourth GP. A woman, this doctor finally
took me seriously. The dismissive statistics which I had been
quoted about being "too young - the odds are against
it" were not mentioned by my new saviour. She sent me
off for an ultrasound, which apparently is a much more effective
diagnostic tool for young, dense breast tissue. The ultrasound
operator was lovely, sympathetic and taking particular care
to get good film.
The results of that ultrasound did indeed show a sinister
and growing lump in my right breast, almost in my armpit and
of dense, non-fluid nature. My GP gave me the options. They
could try aspirating, but it didn't look like a cyst (it suggested
a dense mass) and therefore that may not be appropriate. They
could leave it and see how things progressed over the coming
months, but the pain which it was causing and its location
was still a concern from a quality of life perspective. They
could remove the lump, but that would involve a general anaesthetic
and the associated risks, as well as a scar.
The decision for me was a no-brainer. I would have the bedevilled
thing out of my breast, thank you very much. I didn't want
to risk it being anything sinister. I didn't want it to hurt
anymore. And quite frankly I didn't give a toss if I got a
And so I went into the day surgery at Sydney Adventist hospital
shortly thereafter. I was bright and optimistic, and felt
that I had won a little victory by getting that far. The surgery
was straightforward, and the pathology was performed immediately
in the theatre to give me the all clear. What I had suffered
from was a fibroadenoma, and due to its increasing size, location
and the inability to categorically determine the lump's status
without surgery, it was appropriate for me to have it removed.
Today, I have a scar at the base of my right breast, about
6cm long. I am quite comfortable about my scar, and wear it
with pride. I also have another lump. I have no idea what
it is, but am comfortable in my doctor's diagnosis that it
is another fibroadenoma. However, the difference for me now
is that I know the lump well. And I know my options and risks.
I watch it and feel for it and have 6-monthly checkups with
my GP and bi-annual checkups with my surgeon. I am not fearful,
And I make sure that every day I stop, smile, and smell the
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