Tuesday, December 13, 2005

a cautionary tale

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 :)


Motherkitty said...

Aye aye, captain. Point well taken. I already follow your instructions religiously. I'm VERY glad the lady patient was able to take care of her "problem" so quickly with no ill results. Sometimes patients' concerns are ignored by physicians with major BAD results. Then there are deaths and/or lawsuits. Very sad. My motto is, know thine own body and never dismiss that which seems irregular.

Thanks for the important message.

Heather said...

Yes, doctor.

I am so glad you are a good doc. You saved her life, you know! Way to go, Jelly!

susan said...

Thanks for the lecture. I also do the annual mammo, just had one (I wonder what MAN invented that machine?) Anyway, good advice. I type exclusively oncology (cancer) transcription and so many people do not see the doctor for things soon enough, things that could be caught soon and dealt with favorably. Good job Jelly!

Mel said...

Well I think being bossy when you can save someone's life by doing so is perfectly acceptable! It's certainly not anything to take lightly.

Thanx for popping in on my blog :)

mackeydoodle said...

I thank you for the "lecture" Jelly. I have known so many people with breast cancer. Just last Thursday my girlfriend Angela went to the Dr.s re: a lump she felt in her breast. She goes for her mommagram on Dec.22. We are so worried. My girlfriend says the lump does hurt though & from what I understand this can be a good sign because more often than not cancerous lumps don't normally hurt. I am just praying for her that all comes out well.


My worst fear at this point in my life is losing my boobs - so I tend to ignore them and just let the family doc feel me up once or twice a year. I am horrified of the pancake machine as well. That is really scary!

mackeydoodle said...


Anonymous said...

your right to remind us.

PHOTO said...

I understand that men are at risk also. You don't hear much about it but what I'm reading the cases are on the rise.

jellyhead said...

It sounds like everyone is diligent with their health checks - except maybe kshippychic, and she's already been nagged by Mackeydoodle, so I'm spared that job (thanks Mackeydoodle!)

Photo, you are quite right that men can get breast cancer - I believe approximately 1% of all breast cancers cases are men.

mackeydoodle said...

The husband of the secretary at my sons school was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 weeks ago. He found out last week that it is also in his bones & in his skull. Apparently they have given him about a year as there is nothing much tha the Dr's can do for him. You don't hear of men getting breast cancer very often but I guess it does happen.