A couple of weeks ago, I saw a lady patient at work, who mentioned, casually, that she'd recently noticed a firmer area within her left breast. It wasn't an obvious lump, so she wasn't too concerned...but she wondered if maybe she should have the area checked.
I checked, and she was right - there was a thickened area. The other breast had a similar thickening, too. But in the left breast, there was a hint of something deeper than the thickening; an indistinct mass. Not a hard mass, but a hint of more dense tissue underneath all the overlying tissue. Nothing too worrying. I sent this lady, who is in her early 50's, for some imaging. I really wasn't terribly concerned - I thought there may have been a cyst, or just a prominent nodule within the breast.
After a week off work (with the visiting rellies), I returned yesterday to find the lady had already had breast surgery for an early breast cancer. It seems to be a small cancer, confined to the breast, with no spread to the glands under her arms. So her prognosis is excellent, thank goodness. But gosh, these cases are scary. What if she hadn't bothered to get the area checked? What if I'd been so arrogant as to assume the area was definitely what it felt most like - and hadn't ordered scanning? (this would have been negligent of me, but I'm sure this kind of thing happens at times). In either of these scenarios, it could have been a very different outcome.
So to all my female blog-friends, I suggest (pleadingly)
1) regular breast self-examination - if you're not sure how, ask your doctor or clinic nurse
2) regular mammograms/ultrasounds from the appropriate age, depending on family history and personal medical history - again if you're not sure what you should be having done, ASK. And *please* keep up-to-date with these checks.
3) if you find something that feels different to you, that feels like a lump to you (or if you notice visible changes) - get it checked by your doctor and, if your doctor doesn't order imaging, politely but firmly request it. Insist if you must, or see another doctor.
This now concludes my lecture. I will accept all rebukes for being bossy with good grace.
Goodnight and stay well :)